OBSERVERS of American politics, from Jerry Brown to Ross Perot,
have criticized President Clinton for breaking many promises.
However, Federal judicial selection is one critical area in which
the chief executive has clearly honored his commitments.
In discharging the constitutional duty to appoint judges, the
administration has carefully implemented a new covenant with the
American people by increasing gender, racial, and political balance
on the federal bench.
When Mr. Clinton was campaigning, he contended that the court
appointments of Presidents Reagan and Bush significantly reduced
the diversity that President Carter had strongly promoted.
Candidate Clinton pledged to rectify that situation. Since the
election, he has fulfilled his promise by naming outstanding judges
who reflect society's diverse composition. As the president begins
his second year in office, his administration's record of choosing
judges should be evaluated to ascertain how he has kept his
Clinton appointed and nominated unprecedented numbers and
percentages of women and minorities, although the Senate has yet to
confirm two-fifths of his nominees. He named 11 women out of 28
judges (39 percent) and seven minorities out of 28 judges (25
percent). He nominated 18 female lawyers out of 48 (37 percent) and
13 minority attorneys out of 48 (27 percent). These figures eclipse
Mr. Reagan's record and substantially surpass those of Mr. Bush and
All of Clinton's appointees and nominees apparently have
excellent qualifications. They seem to be highly intelligent,
industrious, quite independent, and to possess great integrity.
Quite a few have earned respect for their effective performance as
federal or state court judges.
United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is
illustrative. Her litigation of landmark women's rights cases
prompted some observers to analogize her career to that of Justice
Thurgood Marshall. For 13 years she served with distinction on the
DC Circuit, the country's second most important court. Professor
Ginsburg enjoyed a reputation as a clear thinker and a
consensus-builder on a very contentious court, which decides many
cases involving complex issues of science, economics, and public
policy that affect millions of Americans.
Clinton also elevated to the Second Circuit Pierre Leval, who
was widely acclaimed as one of the preeminent federal district
judges. Moreover, he appointed to the Sixth Circuit Justice Martha
Daughtrey, a highly-regarded member of the Tennessee state bench
for over a decade.
The administration has implemented efficacious selection
processes and instituted special efforts to find and nominate
excellent women and minorities. Moreover, the president and
high-ranking personnel have proclaimed that the appointment of
distinguished, diverse judges is a top administration priority,
specifically urging senators to forward the names of female and
minority attorneys for nomination.
Clinton's success is even more striking given the obstacles he
faced. Lengthy Republican control of the executive branch meant
that the administration lacked individuals with applicable
governing experience. …