The main actors in the federal court system are the men and women who serve as judges and justices. Virtually anyone in America can become a District Court judge. There are no constitutional or statutory qualifications stipulated for serving on the District Court. There are no exams to pass, no minimum age requirement, no stipulation that judges be native-born citizens or legal residents, and no requirement that judges even have a law degree. However it is not as easy as one may think. District Court judges in the United States are an elite within an elite that go through a strenuous selection process before sitting on the bench.
The skeletal framework of judicial selection is the same for all federal judges, although the roles of the participants vary depending on the level of the U.S. judiciary. All nominations are made by the president after due consultation with the White House staff, the attorney general's office, certain senators, and other politicos.
Furthermore, the FBI customarily performs a routine security check. After the nomination is announced to the public, various interest groups that believe they have a stake in the appointment may lobby for or against the candidate. Also, a committee of the American Bar Association will evaluate the candidate's qualifications. The candidate's name is then sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducts an investigation of the nominee's fitness for the post. If the committee's vote is favorable, the nomination is sent to the floor of the Senate, where it is either approved or rejected by a simple majority vote.
Technically, the chief executive nominates all judicial candidates, but history has shown that the president is more concerned with appointments to the Supreme Court than to the lower courts, such as the District Courts. Because appointments to the District Courts...