Have Presidents Gotten Better at Picking Ideologically-Compatible Justices?

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5 Responses

  1. Howard Wasserman says:

    An alternative explanation is that ideology is more uniform and consistent; that is, those who hold a particular ideology/affiliation carry that along a broad range of issues. This has not always been the case, as some of the examples in the post suggest. I also would offer Justice Frankfurter, who shared the Democratic ideology on the New Deal and government power, but not on emerging individual rights.

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    Might even be better at picking judges than your criteria suggests, if some of those Presidents were lying to the voters about their ideology.

  3. Christine Chabot says:

    Thanks, Howard, that’s an insightful point. It is also consistent with the finding in my initial paper that Justices have become more polarized in recent decades. So perhaps presidents are improving because they can now choose from a pool of candidates with more consistent ideological commitments across the board. Modern presidents may still appoint moderates who do not consistently join liberal or conservative coalitions (such as Kennedy), but they are not generally doing so.

  4. Brian S. says:

    Great post, it definitely makes you think about the president’s criteria when choosing justices.

  5. Orin Kerr says:

    One of the fascinating details in the Stern & Wermiel biography of Justice Brennan is how little research anyone did into Brennan’s past decisions and how little they considered past performance as a sign of future performance on the Supreme Court. If I recall correctly, Brennan was even recess-appointed to the Supreme Court, had some very liberal votes before his hearing. The Senators on the Judiciary Committee paid no attention to those votes. By modern standards, that’s just exceedingly weird.