The Gatekeepers: Federal District Courts in the Political Process

By Kevin L. Lyles | Go to book overview

depends." 191

On balance, perhaps Reagan's PPOPs were best summarized in a 1983 interview with Jonathan C. Rose, then head of the Office of Legal Policy in the Reagan Justice Department, stating that "philosophy certainly has been a factor with regard to our appointments." Rose added that the Reagan administration was attempting to "correct the imbalance created by Carter's appointment of so many liberals to the lower federal courts." 192 Reagan appointed judges who "share[d] his opposition to busing, racial hiring quotas and elaborate procedural protections for criminal defendants, and his disagreement with Supreme Court decisions on the death penalty, abortion, and school prayer." 193

Finally, as summarized by Fred Fielding, former counselor to Reagan, younger judges with a conservative track record of aggressive conservatism are "Ronald Reagan's best legacy." 194 Quite appropriately, it is just a suggestion such as Fielding's and others 195-- the suggestion of a legacy that requires further analyses. More specifically, what is the success of this legacy and how does it compare to others, and to what extent have presidents been able to effect their policy objectives through district court appointments.


CHAPTER SUMMARY

The essential purpose of this and the preceding chapters (4 and 5), has been to determine the presidents' policy positions on the five selected policy issue areas (PPOPs). The most obvious feature of the above discussions is that whether for policy or partisan agenda reasons, judicial appointments are linked to a presidential agenda. It is clear, for example, that presidents, via the selection and appointment process, may attempt to promote their policy agendas, shore up partisan coalitions, and reward the party faithful.

All told, partisan goals sometimes coincide with policy goals and vice versa. This chapter suggests that both Carter and Reagan gave considerable weight to their own agenda and goals when assessing the professional qualifications of their nominees. Both persuaded the ABA to bend its established standards to accommodate their nominees. The Carter administration made a calculated effort to appoint more women, African-Americans, and Latinos. By comparison, few from these groups were named by President Reagan. Reagan's major focus was to appoint those who shared his philosophy of judicial conservatism and his social agenda. In the next chapter, Chapter 6, similar analysis is provided for presidential policy objectives and judicial selection during the Bush and Clinton administrations.


NOTES
1.
At their second annual meeting held in Washington in October 1980, the National Association of Women Judges was invited as a group to the White House and addressed by President Carter. See Beverly B. Cook in the Feminist Connection, October 1981.

-144-

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