SEVEN of the nine Supreme Court justices are Republican...


April 27, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

SEVEN of the nine Supreme Court justices are Republican appointees, but, as I said Wednesday, that's just the half of it.

Most important judicial decisions are made below the level of the Supreme Court. Because Republicans have held the White House for all but four years since January 1969, the circuit courts of appeals and district courts are also lopsidedly Republican.

Take the District of Maryland. Last month Chief Judge Alexander Harvey took senior status, a form of retirement. He is a Lyndon Johnson appointee. That leaves the court with two Jimmy Carter appointees and six Ronald Reagan and George Bush appointees. Judge Harvey will be replaced by a George Bush appointee. There is another vacancy on the court, a newly created seat. Another Bush judge. So -- 8-2 Republican appointees.

Nationwide the ratio is not that lopsided. But it will be.

Here is the record of appointments over the past generation: Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter -- 428 appointments; Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Reagan and Bush -- 752 appointments. So far.

Not every judge a Republican president names is a Republican, and not every judge a Democrat names is a Democrat, but wow! Do they come close! Sheldon Goldman of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is the leading scholar in this field. He will say in an article in a forthcoming issue of Judicature that Bush's district court judges are 95.8 percent Republican. That's more partisan than even the Reagan judges, who are 95.2 percent Republican.

Murray Dickman, who handles the judicial candidate selection process for Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, says there is no "litmus test" for candidates. But obviously party affiliation is one. Republicans didn't invent litmus paper, of course. Jimmy Carter's district court judges were 95.6 percent Democrats.

Democrats last were able to dominate the judicial selection process during the Franklin Roosevelt-Harry Truman era (1933-1953). Professor Goldman says approximately 80 percent of all federal judges on the bench on the day Dwight Eisenhower was sworn in were Democrats. He estimates that when someone is sworn in as president in January 1993, approximately 75 percent of all judges will be Republicans.

I know who that someone is going to be. So I asked Professor Goldman what the percentage will be in January 1997. He says, if in fact George Bush is re-elected, the federal judiciary by 1997 would be at or exceed the 1953 lopsidedness.

By the time President Dan Quayle's first term in the White House is over, Democratic federal judges will be as rare as northern spotted owls. School children will visit them in zoos. "Look, class, a Robed Democrat!" If Quayle is re-elected, they will go from endangered to extinct.

Couldn't happen, you say? Oh? How many Federalist judges are there? How many Whigs?

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.