Jimmy Carter judicial appointment controversies

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During President Jimmy Carter's presidency, he nominated four people for four different federal appellate judgeships who were not processed by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee before Carter's presidency ended. None of the four nominees were renominated by Carter's successor, President Ronald Reagan. Three of the nominees who were not processed (Eugene Nickerson, Nicholas Bua and Howard F. Sachs) were nominated after July 1, 1980, the traditional start date of the unofficial Thurmond Rule during a presidential election year. All four seats eventually were filled by appointees of President Ronald Reagan.

The four nominees were blocked in committee; no committee hearings ever were held for any of the three. The nominees were held up at the same time that in an unprecedented move, the Senate chose to take up Carter's November 13, 1980, nomination—after he already had lost the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan—of Stephen Breyer to an appellate judgeship on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The Senate wound up confirming Breyer (whom President Bill Clinton appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1994) during the lame-duck session of the 96th Congress the following month. (Breyer's appellate court confirmation in 1980, which was the result of support from both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, often is cited as evidence disproving the existence of the Thurmond Rule.)

During his presidency, Carter also nominated 16 people for 15 different federal district judgeships who were never confirmed by the United States Senate.

List of unconfirmed appellate nominees[edit]

Others who were considered for nomination[edit]

In 1978 or 1979, Carter strongly and publicly had considered nominating Joan Krauskopf, then a law professor at the University of Missouri, to a newly created seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. However, Krauskopf received a "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association because of an alleged lack of judicial experience. A White House staffer disputed that assertion, noting that the judges on the Eighth Circuit felt Krauskopf's teaching responsibilities had give her the requisite experience to handle the job, and that Krauskopf was thought by some in the ABA to be too liberal. Despite support for her candidacy by Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton, Carter himself, on the recommendation of his attorney general, Griffin Bell, made the decision not to proceed with Krauskopf's nomination.[3] Ultimately, Carter wound up nominating Richard S. Arnold to the seat in late 1979; he was confirmed in 1980.

Unconfirmed district court nominees[edit]

During his presidency, Carter nominated 16 people for 15 different federal district judgeships to federal district courts who never were confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Like the appellate court nominations mentioned above, many of these nominees were blocked by Republicans. One, however, was not confirmed because he died while his nomination was pending.

Of the 15 federal district judgeship vacancies in question, three eventually were filled with different Carter nominees and 12 were filled by nominees of President Ronald Reagan. Of Carter's 16 failed district court nominees, four, I. Leo Glasser, John E. Sprizzo, James Parker Jones and Ralph Wilson Nimmons, Jr., subsequently were nominated by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush or Bill Clinton to federal district judgeships. Also, another of the 16, Walter Meheula Heen, was given a recess appointment to his district judgeship by Carter and as a result served as a federal judge for close to a year into the presidency of Reagan, who chose not to renominate and seek a full Senate vote on Heen.

The failed Carter district court nominees:

See also[edit]

References[edit]