Critical Judicial Nominations and Political Change: The Impact of Clarence Thomas

Critical Judicial Nominations and Political Change: The Impact of Clarence Thomas

Critical Judicial Nominations and Political Change: The Impact of Clarence Thomas

Critical Judicial Nominations and Political Change: The Impact of Clarence Thomas

Synopsis

Smith introduces a new concept, "critical judicial nominations," to advance scholars' understanding of the consequences of the federal nomination process for the Supreme Court and the American political system. The study suggests that specific events related to the judicial branch, namely "critical judicial nominations," have significant unanticipated consequences for the Supreme Court's role in the political system, as well as for electoral politics. This is demonstrated in illustrative historical examples which, most importantly, include an in-depth case study of the Clarence Thomas nomination and its subsequent ramifications.

Excerpt

A major challenge facing judicial scholars is to analyze courts and law in proper relation to the American political system. the earliest scholarly traditions in law schools and in the public law subfield of political science treated law and judicial decisions as independent from politics. Law was regarded as a set of coherent rules for human behavior that advanced procedural fairness, protection of property rights, and other significant societal interests. Judges were viewed as wise decision makers who applied and extended legal principles in logical, methodical fashion. the advent of legal realism in the early twentieth century helped to sweep away the formalist facade from scholars' understanding of law, yet it took several additional decades for political scientists to fully integrate their analyses of courts into broader conceptual frameworks addressing the United States' political governing system as a whole.

Among contemporary scholars, there is broad recognition of the connections and interactions between the judicial branch and the other elements and actors of the political system. Myriad studies in recent decades have examined the role of interest groups in advancing their policy agendas through litigation, the politics of judicial selection, interbranch conflicts concerning the development and implementation of judicial policies, and other topics illustrating the inherently political nature of law and the judicial . . .

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