When Richard Nixon became president in 1969, he had laid out a conservative agenda for shaping the federal courts. He criticized the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, for its activism on behalf of the rights of criminals and minorities. Nixon wanted the states to decide such matters rather than receive detailed instructions from the unelected Supreme Court.
Republican presidents and conservative activists have since followed Nixon's rhetoric and looked for proof of a conservative ideology in candidates. Members of Congress and presidents have realized how powerful an active Supreme Court can be, and that fact has raised the stakes for Supreme Court nominations.
This thesis explores how and why the Supreme Court nomination process has changed from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. Each nomination, whether successful or not, is discussed covering factors such as the timing of the nomination, political circumstances, diversity and ideology concerns on the Court, presidential approach, the Senate hearings, news media and interest groups, qualifications of the nominee, and controversies.
From Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, twenty persons have been nominated for the Court. Eighteen of them were nominated by Republican presidents. Despite this Republican domination, several justices who were appointed by Republican presidents have turned out to be more liberal than expected. Democrats have also fiercely resisted some nominations, especially those of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, which have served to awaken conservative anger. The number of easily confirmed candidates has narrowed with regards to age, gender, prior statements, membership in organizations, judicial record, type of education, and professional background.