Politics and the Federal Courts

Archive Report

Debate Over Activism or Restraint

Likely Carter Impact on Nixon-Ford Legacy

President Carter has promised to choose the judges he wants appointed to the federal courts on the basis of “strict merit,” not partisan politics. It is easier said than done, as Carter discovered when he encountered strong Senate opposition to the establishment of commissions to evaluate nominations to the courts of appeal and district courts. He did manage, in an executive order signed Feb. 14, to set up panels to supply him with the names of the “best qualified” persons for the circuit courts of appeals. The order, however, did not apply to the far more numerous district court appointments.

Carter's pledge is unlikely to dampen the controversies over judicial philosophy that have surrounded the federal ...

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