The Gatekeepers: Federal District Courts in the Political Process

By Kevin L. Lyles | Go to book overview
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6 Presidential Agendas and Judicial Appointments: From Bush Republicans to Clinton Democrats, 1988-1996


In line with their immediate predecessors, the administrations of Bush and Clinton (first term) also demonstrated attempts to pack the district courts with nominees who would reflect their preferred judicial philosophy. Like presidents Carter and Reagan before them, reviews of Bush and Clinton show that they too were directly involved in the selection and nomination processes. And, as we shall see, this involvement also brought about dramatic and significant changes in the nature and character of the federal judiciary.


I strongly believe that federal judges should be appointed on the basis of personal and professional qualifications. I am firmly committed to appointing judges who are dedicated to interpreting the law as it exists, rather than legislating from the bench. I also remain committed to appointing to the bench the best qualified candidates we can find--regardless of race and gender. 1

The election of George Bush on November 8, 1988 followed eight years of President Reagan's unprecedented involvement in staffing the federal district courts along ideological lines. Bush's presidential leadership style, however, lacked the passionate ideological commitment of Reagan, 2 and consequently, Bush approached district court judge nominations with less intensity. Overall, Bush's vision, as summarized at the beginning of his presidency, was "to preside over a calm period of national growth, cooperation, and renewal; to manage world affairs with skill and subtlety; and to achieve maximum ends with minimalist means and modest rhetoric." 3

Hints of Bush's position with regard to judicial selection were made clear


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