Ronald Reagan judicial appointment controversies

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During President Ronald Reagan's presidency, he nominated at least twelve people for various federal appellate judgeship who were not confirmed. In some cases, the nominations were not processed by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee before Reagan's presidency ended, while in other cases, nominees were rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee or even blocked by unfriendly members of the Republican Party. Three of the nominees were renominated by Reagan's successor, President George H. W. Bush. Two of the nominees, Ferdinand Francis Fernandez and Guy G. Hurlbutt, were nominated after July 1, 1988, the traditional start date of the unofficial Thurmond Rule during a presidential election year. Eight of the twelve seats eventually were filled by appointees of President George H. W. Bush.

List of failed nominees[edit]

Others who were considered for nomination[edit]

In 1981, Reagan strongly and publicly had considered nominating Hallmark Cards attorney Judith Whittaker, who is the daughter-in-law of the late Supreme Court associate justice Charles Evans Whittaker, to a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that had been created by the decision by Floyd Robert Gibson to take senior status. Whittaker, a Republican, was dropped from consideration in December 1982 before being formally nominated, amid grassroots concerns among conservatives about Whittaker's support of the Equal Rights Amendment and published rumors suggesting that she favored abortion rights.[1][2] Ultimately, the White House nominated John R. Gibson in 1982 to the seat, and he was confirmed by the United States Senate.

In 1982, Reagan strongly and publicly had considered nominating New Orleans lawyer Ben C. Toledano to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to replace Robert Andrew Ainsworth, Jr., who had died in 1981. Toledano was recommended for the position by Louisiana's Republican leadership, including then Governor David C. Treen. However, Toledano's nomination was opposed by local and state chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a local group of African-American attorneys, who cited Toledano's involvement in his twenties as an active supporter of racial segregation and his efforts to organize the segregationist States' Rights Party of Louisiana. (It should also be noted, however, that a number of prominent Louisiana blacks supported the nomination.) In December 1982, Reagan's Counsel to the President, Fred Fielding, wrote in a memo that the joint White House-Justice Department working group "has identified Benjamin C. Toledano ... as a well-qualified candidate for nomination to the existing vacancy on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, we believe the facts described below should be brought to your personal attention before further action occurs on the part of this prospective nominee." Fielding's memo described Toledano's past and the opposition to his nomination by a committee of the American Bar Association. Several days later, the White House informed Toledano that it would not proceed with his nomination, and evidence shows that Reagan himself personally made the decision.[3] Reagan wound up nominating W. Eugene Davis to the seat, and he was confirmed in 1983.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Woman Off List For Judgeship". The New York Times. December 24, 1981. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  2. ^ Bowen, Ezra (April 18, 2005). "Law: Judges with Their Minds Right". Time. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ Goldman, Sheldon (1997). Picking Federal Judges. Yale University Press. pp. 295–296. ISBN 0-300-06962-6. 
  4. ^