Once upon a time . . .the answer
jlindgren at WORLDNET.ATT.NET
Tue Apr 24 00:04:34 PDT 2001
Ray Solomon did a terrific piece in the (1982?) Am. Bar Found. Res.
Journal on the history of federal judicial appointments to the Circuit
Courts of Appeals (there aren't enough Sup. Ct. appts to generalize) in
the first half of the 20th century. The main theme was almost precisely
the question asked (though focused on appointments): which Presidents
appointed judges to push a political agenda? He looked at lots of
letters, hearings, memoirs, etc.
Every President does some politically motivated appointments, but which
ones chose people to push a political agenda--instead of picking the
lions of the bar, or heavy contributors, or friends of the Senators, or
stalwart members of their party?
The Answer (as I recall):
TR-after his first couple of years and he realized how important the
judges were to his agenda.
Wilson-from day one he knew that he needed a different sort of judge in
tune with the regulatory state and appointed them.
FDR-started out picking lions of the bar, but after a couple years
switched to those in step with his political agenda.
Most of the rest pretty much picked the standard old sorts of judges.
So the picking for political agenda reasons (more than just competence
or connections) started with TR and Wilson.
Ray's article ends I think with FDR in 1945.
I don't know what Truman did, but Eisenhower picked the usual old sort,
not politicos he agreed with. Probably all Presidents from Kennedy on
picked mostly judges because of their agenda (I don't know how political
Gerry Ford's picks were, but he certainly picked Republicans). Kennedy,
however, as A. Amar has pointed out, picked segregationist judges in the
South, who were politically much less pro-Civil Rights than the
Eisenhower Southern appointees.
Ray's article is a very nice piece of work that helps me understand
better not only how we got the judiciary we have, but the government we
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