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Judges & Justices. PSCI 2481. Questions. Who is the President of the United States? Who is the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court? Name the Associate Justices. Who is the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court? Name the Associate Justices of the Colorado Supreme Court.

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Judges & Justices

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Judges & Justices

PSCI 2481


  • Who is the President of the United States?

  • Who is the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court?

  • Name the Associate Justices.

  • Who is the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court?

  • Name the Associate Justices of the Colorado Supreme Court.

What Americans Know

  • Name of the President:99%

  • Name of Governor of State:86%

  • Name of the Chief Justice:51%

  • Name both US Senators:35%

Thomas 20%

Scalia 11%

Roberts 9%

Ginsburg 9%

Alito 5%

Kennedy 4%

Souter 3%

Stevens 2%

Breyer 1%

When asked to name 2 of the current Justices:

61% could not name any justices,

15% named one

24% named two.

Knowledge of the Current Court

Earlier Surveys

8/1995                      6/2003                    12/2005O'Connor    31%       O'Connor    25%        O'Connor   27%Thomas       30%       Thomas       21%        Thomas      21%Rehnquist    8%Rehnquist   10%Roberts     16%Ginsburg      7%       Ginsburg        9%       Scalia         13%Scalia            6%       Scalia            9%        Ginsburg    12%Souter          4%       Souter           4%        Kennedy      7%Kennedy       4%       Kennedy        4%        Souter         5%Breyer          1%       Breyer           2%       Breyer         3%Stevens        1%       Stevens         1%        Stevens       3%


zero              55%     zero             65%      zero            57%one               16%     one+             35%      one+            43%two               11%three            17%

n=1200                     n=1000                      n=1000

Depressing Statistics?

  • When asked to name two of Snow White's Seven Dwarfs and two of the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 77% of Americans polled were able to identify two dwarfs, while only 24% could name two Supreme Court Justices.

“By far the most important appointments [a president] makes are those to the Supreme Court of the United States. Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court through its decisions goes on forever.”

- Richard Nixon

The Federal System of Judicial Selection

Article III, Section 2:

“He [The President] shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shalll appoint…judges of the Supreme Court and all other officers of the United States.”

What does “Advise and Consent” mean?

Back to the Constitutional Convention & the Federalist Papers

  • Virginia Plan – All federal judges should be appointed by the Congress

  • Too many judges - let Senate do it

  • Attempts to shift all responsibility to President were defeated.

  • Only in the final days was the President given authority to participate in the process with a nomination to be balanced out by Senate concurrence

  • Federalist #76. Hamilton (an advocate of a strong President argues against sole Presidential appointment of judges)

How does this selection process work in practice?

Nomination Criteria

  • There are NO constitutional qualifications!

  • Competence

  • Ideology/Policy Preferences

  • Pursuit of Political Support

  • Religion

  • Geography

  • Race and gender

Federal Selection Process


Dept. of




Interest Groups


Jud. Comm.


Nominations & Confirmations

  • Supreme Court nominations are among the most controversial made by the President.

  • Recently (since the late 1960’s), court nominations have been particularly controversial.

  • Controversy is a mostly function of historical periods of “divided government”.

  • Modern controversy over judicial appointments precedes Roe v. Wade. That is, it’s not just about ABORTION although that’s what we hear most about in contemporary hearings.

  • Really dates to the late 1960’s in when the Democrats and Republicans began to battle over a series of nominations:

    • Abe Fortas

    • Clement Haynesworth

    • Harold Carswell

    • William Rehnquist

“Recent” Controversies

  • Robert Bork, 1986

  • Clarence Thomas, 1992

  • Lower Federal court appointments, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

  • Samuel Alito 2006

The Clarence Thomas Confirmation Hearings

Why Such a Big Deal?

  • Justices are around “forever”.

  • Trend – Presidents are appointing younger justices to have a longer impact -- and to prevent their successors from changing the court!

  • Truman – My “biggest mistake”. (Presidents really see the court as important!)

Truman and Justice Clark

  • MM: “What do you consider your biggest mistake?”

  • HST: “Tom Clark was my biggest mistake. No question about it.”

  • MM: “I’m sorry, sir. I’m not sure I understand.”

  • HST: “That damn fool from Texas that I first made Attorney General and then put on the Supreme Court. I don’t know what got into me. He was no damn good as Attorney General and on the Supreme Court…it doesn’t seem possible but he’s been even worse.”

Truman and Justice Clark II

  • MM: “How do you explain the fact that he’s been such a bad Justice?”

  • HST: “The main thing is…well, it isn’t so much that he’s a bad man. It’s just that he’s such a dumb son of a bitch. He’s about the dumbest man I think I’ve ever run across. And lots of times that’s the case. Being dumb’s just about the worst thing there is when it comes to holding high office and that’s especially true when it’s the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Other Presidential Mistakes

  • Dwight Eisenhower

    • Justice William Brennan

    • Chief Justice Earl Warren

  • John F. Kennedy

    • Justice Byron White

  • Richard Nixon

    • Justice Harold Blackmun

  • George H. W. Bush

    • Justice Daniel Souter

Presidential “Mistakes” & Prior Judicial Experience

Q: But does having experience make someone a “good” justice?

  • Of the 100+ members of the Court throughout history, 40 have had no experience.

  • Among those w/o experience have been 8 of the 17 Chief Justices (Marshall, Taney, Chase, Waite, Fuller Hughes, Stone and Warren). All have been considered “Great” CJs.

  • On the other hand, “previous judicial experience has predicted mediocrity rather than greatness, whether as Asociate or Chief Justice.” (Spaeth, 1976, 101)


(Most Liberal) (Most Conservative)


Douglas Marshall Brennan Stewart Powell White Blackmun Burger Rehnquist


Marshall Brennan Stevens Blackmun Powell WhiteBurger O’Connor Rehnquist


Blackmun Stevens O’Connor Souter White KennedyThomas Rehnquist Scalia

A History of Justices

The First Justices

  • John Jay (Chief Justice)

  • John Rutledge

  • William Cushing

  • James Wilson

  • John Blair

  • James Iredell

The “17” Chief Justices

John Jay, 1789-1795

John Rutledge, 1795

Oliver Ellsworth, 1796-1800

John Marshall, 1801-1835

Roger Taney, 1836-1864

Salmon Chase, 1864-1873

Morrison Waite, 1874-1888

Melville Fuller, 1888-1910

Edward White, 1910-1921

William Howard Taft, 1921-1930

Charles Evans Hughes, 1930-1941

Harlan Fiske Stone, 1941-1946

Fred Vinson, 1946-1953

Earl Warren, 1953-1969

Warren Burger, 1969-1986

William H. Rehnquist, 1971-2005

#17 John G. Roberts, jr. 2005 - ?

Historical Courts

The Taney Court

The Chase Court

The Waite Court

The Fuller Court

The White Court

The Taft Court

The Hughes Court

The Stone Court

The Vinson Court

The Warren Court

The Burger Court

The Rehnquist Court

The Roberts Court 2006

John Paul Stevens

Antonin Scalia

Anthony Kennedy

David Souter

Clarence Thomas

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Stephen Breyer

Samuel Alito

The 2006 CourtChief Justice John Roberts

Did you notice anything about the justices of the Supreme Court?

  • The court has never been very demographically representative of the US. It has been demographically representative of the “power elite”.

  • Just as Congress was mostly populated by white men until quite recently and the President has exclusively been occupied by white men, so to has the Court.

Who are Federal Judges?

Typically federal judges have:

  • held previous political office such as prosecutor or state court judge

  • political experience such as running a campaign

  • prior judicial experience (but not required)

  • been lawyers (but not required)

  • traditionally been mostly white males

A “Twist” in the process

  • “Senatorial Courtesy” for District Court appointments.

    • Senators (of the President’s party) can “veto” nominations in their home state.

Court of Appeals Judges I

Court of Appeals Judges II

District Court Judges I

District Court Judges II

Does it make a difference who is appointed to the bench?

Selection Processes for State Judges: 5 Methods

  • Partisan Elections

  • Non-Partisan Elections

  • Gubernatorial Appointment

  • Legislative Appointment

  • Merit Selection aka “The Missouri Plan”

Terms in Office

United States

  • Federal Judges & Justices Lifetime


  • County Judges4 Years

  • District Judges6 Years

  • Court of Appeals Judge8 Years

  • Supreme Court Justices10 Years

Judicial Salaries

US Government (1999) (2006)

US Supreme Court

Chief Justice$175,400$212,100

Associate Justice$167,900$203,000

US Court of Appeals$145,000$175,100

US District Court$136,700$165,200

US Magistrates$125,764$151,984

For Comparison (2006)


Vice President$212,100


  • Majority Leader$183,500

  • Senator$165,200


  • Speaker of the House$212,100

  • Majority/Minority Leader$183,500

  • Representative$165,200

Judicial Salaries II

Colorado (2000)(2003)

Supreme Court

Chief Justice$102,486$116,000

Associate Justice $99,986$114,000

Court of Appeals

Chief Justice $97,986$112,000

Associate Justice $95,486$109,000

District Court $90,986$105,000

Judicial Salaries III


High (New York) (California)

Supreme Court

Chief Justice$156,000$191,000

Associate Justice$151,200$176,000

Court of Appeals

Chief Justice$147,600$171,000

Associate Justice$144,000$165,000

District/Trial Court$136,700$144,000


Supreme Court (Montana) (Montana)

Chief Justice$84,993$97,000

Associate Justice$83,550$96,000

Court of Appeals (New Mexico)

Chief Justice$85,284

Associate Justice$83,384

District Court$77,340$84,000


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