April 17, 2005

Republicans Already Rule Most Federal Courts

94 of the 162 active judges now on the U.S. Court of Appeals were chosen by Republican presidents.

Nixon: 1
Ford: 1
Reagan: 29
G.H.W. Bush: 29
G.W. Bush: 34

= 94 GOP appointed judges. 10 of the 13 circuit courts have Republican majorities.

Now, Conservatives have a dilemma with the courts.

For Republicans, that has become especially clear as the party has moved further to the right, in some cases leaving "conservative" judges looking "moderate."
Conservatives push the Republican party to the extreme right which is now the mainstream of the party. Previous Republican conservative judges now seem down right "moderate" and in some cases out right "liberal".

Though it remains a staple of conservative rhetoric that the courts are "out of control" and driven by "liberal activists," the GOP's control of the White House for 24 of the last 36 years has given Republicans -- if not conservatives -- a firm grip on the federal judiciary.
Now, Conservatives do not only want to appoint conservative judges, but partisan, loyal to the Christian Right and to their big money donors.

That's why last year's Republican Party platform took aim at the GOP-dominated federal courts and pledged to "stop activist judges from banning the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ten Commandments."

The fight may have more to do with the kind of Republican who joins the courts, in particular the Supreme Court. While Democrats are determined to block judicial nominees they see as conservative ideologues, the Republican leadership pushes for right-leaning judges.
Judge Anthony M. Kennedy of U.S. Supreme Court is not their kind of judge.

The importance of what brand of Republican joins the court was driven home in 1987, when Reagan chose the conservative Judge Robert Bork. Senate Democrats defeated Bork, and Reagan chose instead Judge Anthony M. Kennedy of Sacramento, a Republican with a reputation as a moderate conservative. He won a unanimous confirmation by the Senate.
The switch proved momentous.

In 1989, Kennedy cast the fifth vote to rule that burning an American flag was protected as an act of free speech. In 1992, Kennedy and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Reagan's first appointee, cast the deciding votes to uphold the right to abortion and to prohibit public schools from sponsoring prayers, even during ceremonies such as graduation. O'Connor cast the deciding vote to uphold college affirmative action two years ago, and Kennedy cast the key vote last month to strike down the death penalty for juvenile murderers.

Bork, now retired, has said he would have voted the other way on all those issues and given the conservative dissenters the majority.
One of the goal of the conservatives attempt to end the filibuster of judges in the Senate is ...

However, if the Republicans win a change in the filibuster rule, Bush could look forward to easy confirmation for his Supreme Court nominees.

Despite some of their rhetoric, Congressional Republicans have acknowledged by their actions that the federal courts are not wildly liberal.
If conservatives end the filibuster rule for judicial nominees, President Bush can appoint right kind of judges the Christian right wants with out any debate, with out Democrats having a voice in the discussion of the next Supreme Court judge.


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