Critical Judicial Nominations in American History
A survey of Supreme Court history would reveal that relatively few judicial nominations meet the criteria for classification as "critical" nominations which significantly affected politics and policy. The three chief justice nominations discussed in this chapter--those of John Marshall in 1801, Earl Warren in 1953, and Abe Fortas in 1968--as well as the 1991 associate justice nomination of Clarence Thomas to be discussed in the chapters that follow, arguably provide the clearest examples of critical judicial nominations that shaped the Supreme Court's role or significantly affected other aspects of politics and policy in American society. The examples presented in this chapter are illustrative in the sense that they do not necessarily constitute an exhaustive list of critical judicial nominations that meet the stated definition. Just as V. O. Key's initial article on critical elections discussed only a few elections and left it to other scholars to refine and further apply his concept, 1 future analyses may find the concept of critical judicial nominations to be applicable to other selected nominations.
At the time that John Marshall was nominated by lameduck President John Adams to become chief justice, the Supreme Court