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Reaganizing the Judiciary - The First Term Appointments

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 68 Issue: 9-10 Dated: (April-May 1985) Pages: 313-329
S Goldman
Date Published
17 pages
This paper examines the reshaping of the judicial selection process by the Reagan administration, the demographic and attribute profiles of the Reagan district and appeals court appointees, and potential future appointments.
Under the Reagan administration, the judicial selection process has been made more formal by institutionalizing tasks and interactions that previously were more fluid and informal. The center of judicial selection activity has shifted from the Deputy Attorney General's Office to the Office of Legal Policy. The main innovation, however, is the creation of the President's Committee on Federal Judicial Selection. This nine-member committee gives the White House an active role in judicial selection. The Reagan administration is the first Republican administration in 30 years in which the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary was not actively used and consulted in the prenomination stage. Data on the 129 Reagan first-term appointments to Federal district courts showed that about 40 percent were members of the judiciary, over 70 percent had either judicial or prosecutorial experience, and a majority had private college background. Comparison with previous administrations' appointments showed that the typical Republican appointee tended to be of higher socioeconomic status than the typical Democratic appointee. The Reagan administration's appointment of women was second only to that of the Carter administration, but the Reagan administration's record on black appointments was the worst since the Eisenhower administration. In both these administrations, no black appointments to life-time district court positions occurred. Of 31 appeals court appointees during Reagan's first term, there were only one each of the following: female, black, and Hispanic. Fragmentary evidence now available also indicates that the Reagan appointees have begun to shift the ideological balance on the lower courts. Future appointees are most likely to be white, male, and Republican. Thirty-seven footnotes are supplied.