Critical Judicial Nominations
The U.S. Supreme Court is recognized by scholars and politicians as an influential institutional actor in American national politics. Although many members of the public cling to conceptions of courts as legal institutions separate from the world of politics, 1 if pressed, even naive citizens can recognize many examples of the generally acknowledged connections between the judicial branch and the political governing system. For example, the nation's highest court receives significant attention from the news media and the public when presidents nominate new justices. Supreme Court nominees sometimes become the central figures in partisan confirmation battles. Democrats and Republicans compete with each other for control of the White House and the U.S. Senate, in part, because these institutions determine which individuals will become the country's most influential judicial decision makers-- those who shape public policy concerning abortion, criminal justice, and a variety of other important subjects.
Because the Supreme Court is such an important institution in the governing system, scholars seek to analyze the nature and importance of the Court's past and continuing role in shaping American society. In assessing the Court's impact on political developments, scholars have analyzed the Court's conflicts with other branches of government, its role as a policy initiator, and its