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img074 - 150 Politic by Other Meam‘ This in turn led to...

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Unformatted text preview: 150 Politic: by Other Meam‘ This in turn led to two decades of harsh struggles over judicial se- lection. Both Presidents Nixon and Reagan sought to appoint con— servative jurists to the federal bench in an effort to curb the liberals’ ability to exercise influence through the federal judiciary. During his six years in office Nixon appointed four justices, including Chief Justice Warren Burger and Associate Justice Wrilliam Rehn— quist, to the Supreme Court. Liberal Democrats sought to block Nixon’s efforts to create a conservative majority on the High Court and succeeded in defeating the confirmation of two other conserv- ative jurists, Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell. The two remaining justices appointed by Nixon, Harry A. Blackmun and Lewis F. Powell, proved to be moderates who were not intent on reversing the Court's direction. The Reagan administration attempted to ensure that appointees to all levels of the federal bench—-district and circuit courts as well as the Supreme Court—were committed conservatives. The ad- ministration made a particular effort to appoint conservative legal scholars to federal appeals courts. These scholars included Robert Bork and Ralph K. Winter of Yale; Antonin Scalia, Richard Pos- ner, and Frank Easterbrook of the University of Chicago; Douglas Ginsburg of Harvard; John Noonan of Berkeley; and J. Harvie Wrilkinson of the University of Virginia. Through such appoint- ments, the White House h0ped to foster an intellectual revolution on the bench and enhance the impact of conservative principles on American jurisprudence. In the case of the Supreme Court, Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate conservative, and Antonin Scalia, whom the president had previously named to the circuit court. After a bit— ter confirmation battle in the Senate, Reagan also was able to ele— vate William Rehnquist to chief justice. Reagan’s efforts to place archconservative Judge Robert Bork on the High Court, however, encountered fierce resistance. Liberal groups organized fund-raising drives and sponsored television advertising in the largest public campaign of the nation’s history to defeat a judicial nominee. The administration’s opponents on the Senate Judiciary Committee I mtitutianal C ombat I 5 I sought to discredit Bork in nationally televised hearings. Rather than examine the nominee’s professional competence and ethics, which previously had been seen as the Senate’s proper role, they asked him to defend his writings, questioned his philosophy, and sought to ascertain how he would decide major issues likely to face the Court. In the end they rejected the Bork nomination. Conservative Judge Douglas Ginsburg, whom Reagan nomi- nated in Berks place, was compelled to withdraw his name from consideration when reporters revealed that while on the faculty of the Harvard Law School he had been seen smoking marijuana. Rea- gan then named Judge Anthony Kennedy to fill the Court's vacant position. Prodded by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kennedy was compelled to give assurances at his confirmation hearings that he was not intent on overturning Supreme Court precedents. On the strength of these assurances, Kennedy was unanimously confirmed. George Bush appointed two more conservatives to the Court. In 1990 he appointed David Souter, a federal appeals judge from New Hampshire, and in 1991 be appointed Clarence Thomas, a promi- nent black conservative, to replace liberal Justice Thurgood Mar— shall. Thomas’s nomination sparked one of the most bitter struggles in recent American political history. During his lengthy confirmation hearing, Anita Hill, a University of Oklahoma law professor, testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she worked for him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Com- mission and, previously, at the Department of Education. At the end of the controversial hearing, Thomas was confirmed by the Senate by the narrow vote of fifty—two to forty-eight. Reagan and Bush’s appointments to the Supreme Court gave it a much more conservative cast than it had at any time since the New Deal. In a series of five to four decisions in 1989, President Reagan's appointees were able to swing the Court to a more conservative po- sition on civil rights and abortion. In the area of civil rights the case of Wardr Cove 1/. Atam'o shifted the burden of proof from employers to employees in hiring and promotion discrimination suits. (This ...
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