Sheldon Goldman

Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Chapter Member: Boston SSN
Areas of Expertise:

Connect with Sheldon

About Sheldon

For the last several decades Goldman’s research has focused on the backgrounds of lower federal court judges and the politics of judicial selection and confirmation. The judges that have commanded his attention are lifetime appointees to the federal district courts and appeals courts of general jurisdiction (the eleven numbered circuits and the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia). Federal courts and judges are significant shapers of public policy as they interpret and apply both statutory and particularly constitutional law. Political Science research, including Goldman’s own, has demonstrated that not only Supreme Court justices but also lower federal court judges help shape public policy in many significant areas of public law including racial and gender equality, the civil rights of gays including same sex marriage, privacy rights spanning a woman’s right to make medical decisions concerning her body including termination of pregnancy to protections from the excesses of the surveillance state, the scope of government regulation of the economy and providing for social and economic welfare. Goldman also teaches and has published in the area of constitutional law and civil liberties. His civic involvement is primarily indirect, and involves talking with the media and occasionally providing data to government officials including Supreme Court justices.


Justice at Stake

Obama's Judicial Appointments in a Time of Extraordinary Obstruction

  • Sara M. Schiavoni
  • Elliot E. Slotnick

In the News

Sheldon Goldman quoted by Matt Viser, "Conservative Plan, Years in the Making, is Occurring as Trump Fills Federal Bench" The Boston Globe, July 21, 2018.
Sheldon Goldman quoted by Carter Sherman and Taylor Dolven, "A Trump Judge Pick Left Anti-Abortion Speeches off Her Senate Disclosure Form" VICE News, March 1, 2018.
Sheldon Goldman quoted by Allegra Kirkland, "Did Citizens United Help Russians Funnel Money To NRA?" Talking Points Memo, January 22, 2018.
Sheldon Goldman quoted by Matt Kwong, "Looking for Trump's Greatest 'Triumph' 1 Year on? Check out How He's Reshaping the Federal Courts" CBC News, January 20, 2018.
Sheldon Goldman quoted on Trump's infusion of conservative jurists by Andrew Chung, "Senate Quickens Pace of Approving Trump Judicial Picks" Reuters, November 16, 2017.
Sheldon Goldman's research on the Supreme Court discussed by Max Ehrenfreund, "The Number of White Dudes Becoming Federal Judges Has Plummeted under Obama," The Washington Post, February 18, 2016.
Sheldon Goldman's research on GOP obstructionism discussed by Joan McCarter, "Filibustered, Again," Daily Kos, November 18, 2013.
"Fili-Busted: How the Judicial Nominee Process Became a Nightmare," Sheldon Goldman, Talking Points Memo, October 31, 2013.
Interview on judicial nomineesSheldon Goldman, Voice of America, November 8, 2004.
Interview on judicial nomineesSheldon Goldman, CBS News, October 25, 2004.
"Who Shall be the Judge?: Let the Debate Begin," Sheldon Goldman, Newsday, March 10, 2002.
"The Injudicious Senate," Sheldon Goldman, The Washington Post, August 13, 2001.
"Federal Judges are Found Not Gilty," Sheldon Goldman, New York Times, April 23, 1987.
Interview on judicial nomineesSheldon Goldman, NBC Nightly News, January 25, 1985.


"Obama’s First Term Judiciary: Picking Judges in the Minefield of Obstructionism" (with Elliot Slotnick and Sara Schiavoni). Judicature 96, no. 4 (forthcoming).
Focuses in detail on the selection and confirmation processes of lower federal court judges during President Obama’s first term and documents the unprecedented levels of obstruction and delay as well as the unprecedented success, despite all the obstacles, of diversifying the federal bench.
"Obama and the Federal Judiciary: Great Expectations but Will He Have a Dickens of a Time Living up to Them?" The Forum 7, no. 1 (2009).
Predicts (correctly) the unprecedented diversification of the federal bench at the start of Obama’s first term, including the appointment of the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court, and hints at the partisan obstructionism that continues to plague the confirmation process.
"Judicial Confirmation Wars: Ideology and the Battle for the Federal Courts" University of Richmond Law Review 39, no. 3 (2005): 871-909.
Documents how the ideological views of judicial nominees play into the selection and confirmation processes.
"Assessing the Senate Judicial Confirmation Process: The Index of Obstruction and Delay" Judicature 86, no. 2 (2003): 251-258.
Introduces the Index of Confirmation and Delay and finds that the Index has climbed upward since the last two years of the Reagan presidency.
"Picking Federal Judges: Lower Court Selection from Roosevelt through Reagan" (Yale University Press, 1997, paperback 1999).
Documents judicial selection politics over nine presidencies and 55 years, including the struggle to diversify the federal bench; concludes that a president’s policy, political, or personal agendas are crucial in understanding selection.
"Voting Behavior on the U.S. Courts of Appeals Revisited" American Political Science Review 69, no. 6 (1975): 491-506.
Demonstrates, in a follow-up study of Goldman’s 1966 APSR article, that political party affiliation was the most potent background variable in explaining voting behavior on the appeals courts particularly in economic cases but also (excluding southern judges) in civil liberties decisions.