A Representative Supreme Court? The Impact of Race, Religion, and Gender on Appointments

A Representative Supreme Court? The Impact of Race, Religion, and Gender on Appointments

A Representative Supreme Court? The Impact of Race, Religion, and Gender on Appointments

A Representative Supreme Court? The Impact of Race, Religion, and Gender on Appointments

Synopsis

Perry offers a detailed look at the impact of religion, race, and gender on appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, and places the factors that have influenced presidential decisions into their historical and political contexts. Analyses of the appointments of eight Catholics, five Jews, one black, and one woman reveal a history of decision-making based on the recognition of specific groups. Perry draws on numerous sources, including interviews with seven Court members, in addressing the question of whether "representative" factors should play a role in nominating justices.

Excerpt

Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone once likened Supreme Court appointments to a "lottery" drawn from a pool of more or less qualified individuals. Yet, judicial selection is far from random, and it is neither a drawing from a pool open to all who can afford a ticket nor free from political considerations in the final selection of the winning ticket. What Stone had in mind was how a president's personal politics--his political associations and friendships--frequently determine the fate of qualified candidates for the Court. Still, the pool of possible candidates for an appointment also reflects the weight each president and the presidency gives to (1) professional considerations, the legal expertise and reputation of competing potential nominees; and (2) advancing the administration's ideological or policy agenda; as well as (3) rewarding personal and political associates and party-faithful. Moreover, throughout the history of the Supreme Court and U.S. politics, presidents have occasionally included in their calculations demands for "representation" on the Court--that is, appointments aimed at symbolically representing particular geographical regions or the changing composition of the electorate and country in terms of religion, race, and gender.

A "Representative" Supreme Court? is inexorably provocative. That is because it takes to task arguments of both those who consider the idea of "representative" judicial appointments an anathema, a pernicious form of affirmative action that comes at the price of passing over more meritorious potential judicial nominees; and those who stress the importance of political symbolism and diversity on the federal bench for public perceptions of the judiciary's legitimacy. the debate over a "representative . . ."

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