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The politics of federal judges

George Curry | 8/4/2014, 9:57 a.m. | Updated on 8/5/2014, 12:25 a.m.
The two conflicting appeals court rulings last week on the legality of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act ...
George Curry

“From 1980 through 2002, Republican appointees cast 267 total votes, with 127, or 48 percent, in favor of upholding an affirmative-action policy. By contrast, Democratic appointees cast 198 votes, with 147, or 74 percent, in favor of upholding an affirmative-action policy. Here we find striking evidence of ideological voting,” the study found.

An analysis of Bush’s judicial appointments by Robert Carp, Kenneth Manning L. and Ronald Slidham discovered, “Reagan found a good many conservatives on the bench when he took office. Thus he has had a major role in shaping the entire federal judiciary in his own conservative image for some time to come.”

But as bad as Reagan was, George W. Bush appointed judges who were even more conservative.

Carp told reporters, “Our findings are significant because the general consensus is that President Reagan is the most modern conservative president on record, and yet the judges appointed by George W. Bush are even more conservative than the Reagan judges.”

The Virginia Law Review article concluded: “No reasonable person seriously doubts that ideology, understood as normative commitments of various sorts, helps to explain judicial votes. Presidents are entirely aware of this point, and their appointment decisions are undertaken with full appreciation of it.”

So when someone tells you that the political affiliation of the president appointing judges doesn’t matter or when a president claims to be appointing judges who interpret the law and not legislate from the bench, don’t believe them.

George E. Curry is the editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through http://www.georgecurry.com.