The President's Nominee: Robert Bork and the Modern Judicial Confirmation Process


Whittington, Keith E. “The President's Nominee: Robert Bork and the Modern Judicial Confirmation Process”. Baker Center Journal of Applied Public Policy 42 (2012): , 4, 2, 85-99. Print.
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The nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court is taken as a lens for examining the politics of judicial appointments. Robert Dahl contended that presidents are routinely able to shape the Supreme Court to their liking through the appointments process. The average frequency of vacancies on the Supreme Court, however, obscures the importance of variance, and the resulting uncertainty faced by individual presidents about their own opportunities to influence the direction of the Court. A presidential term of office is more likely to look like Jimmy Carter's (who appointed no justices) than Andrew Jackson's (who appointed six). Divided government further complicates the ability of president's to significantly reshape the Court through appointments. In advancing the Bork nomination, the Reagan administration was caught between concerns for ideological commitment and confirmability. The opportunity costs of giving up on a vacancy too soon are substantial, but the presidential ability to fully take advantage of available vacancies depend on the strategic environment.

Last updated on 07/11/2014