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Your Politics Matter if You Want to Become a Federal Judge

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

It sounds like the ultimate path to job security: Become a federal judge and serve for the rest of your life. So how best to prepare if you're eyeing a spot on the federal bench?

Let's start with the basics. Article III Federal judges include district court judges, appeals court judges, and Supreme Court justices, according to the Constitution. All federal judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

That means politics plays a pivotal role in securing a job as a federal judge. Here are three general tips on how to navigate the process:

1. Gain experience as a prosecutor or judge.

The Constitution is silent on federal judge qualifications. But in practice, becoming a federal judge requires a lot of legal experience. "Federal judges are often former federal prosecutors or state judges," a law professor tells

Experience as a law professor can also help, though some academics are assailed in the confirmation process for their political leanings, as revealed in academic writings.

2. Get involved in causes and party politics.

Though federal judges can't play political favorites from the bench, they must play politics to get nominated. It helps if you're active in the same party as the President, so get involved early with your local party activists.

And monitor how the political winds are shifting, a political-science professor tells "Be an ideologue if the appointing administration is ideologically motivated, or a woman or ethnic minority if the appointing administration is motivated by diversification goals," he says.

3. Get to know your senators and other politically connected people.

Senators hold the power to confirm you to the federal bench, so make friends. It also helps to get a job in Washington, D.C., or in the federal government so you can build a politically connected network.

It may sound like a hassle to become a federal judge, but remember the payoff: District judges, for example, make about $174,000 a year, the Justice Department reports -- and you'll be "Appointed Forever," as this song by the Bar and Grill Singers humorously points out:

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