Cover image for Pursuit of justices : presidential politics and the selection of Supreme Court nominees
Pursuit of justices : presidential politics and the selection of Supreme Court nominees
Yalof, David Alistair.
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Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 296 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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KF8742 .Y35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Although the Senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominees is the most public part of the nomination process, the most critical phase the initial selection of nominees is usually hidden from view. In "Pursuit of Justices," David Yalof takes the reader behind the scenes of what happens before the Senate hearings to show how presidents go about deciding who will sit on the highest court in the land. As Yalof shows, an intricate web of forces competing factions within the executive branch, organized interests, and the president's close associates all vie for influence during this phase of presidential decisionmaking.
Yalof draws on the papers of seven modern presidents, from Truman to Reagan, and firsthand interviews with key figures, such as Ramsey Clark, Edwin Meese, and President Gerald Ford. He documents and analyzes the selection criteria these presidents used, the pool of candidates from which they chose, their strategies, and the political pressures affecting their decisions, both successes and failures. Yalof also disputes much conventional wisdom about the selection process, including the widely held view that presidents choose nominees primarily to influence future decisions of the high court. In a substantial epilogue, Yalof offers insightful observations about the selections of Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.
By focusing on a neglected area of presidential politics, Yalof offers a fascinating and unprecedented glimpse into the intricate world of executive branch decisionmaking and the Supreme Court appointment process as a whole.
Winner of the 2000 Richard E. Neustadt Award for Best Book on the American Presidency

Author Notes

David Alistair Yalof is assistant professor of political science at the University of Connecticut

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Yalof examines the process of nominating justices to the U.S. Supreme Court since World War II. His focus is not on the public part of the process, evoked by the spectacles of the Senate confirmation hearings for Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, but on the more determinative process that brings nominees before the Senate and confirmation about 89 percent of the time. Yalof explores various elements that shape the landscape surrounding nominations: the timing of vacancies, the composition of the Senate, the public approval of the president, and the attributes of the outgoing justice. He covers seven administrations and characterizes their approaches to the nomination process: Truman's reward of loyalty and friendship, Eisenhower's challenge of cronyism, the restoration of political patronage under Kennedy and Johnson, the southern strategy of Nixon and Ford, and Reagan's pursuit of conservative idealogues. Yalof, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, has rendered a very accessible and interesting look at this important process in American government. --Vernon Ford

Library Journal Review

The author focuses on a frequently overlooked aspect of the nominating process for U.S. Supreme Court justices: Since the Senate has confirmed 89 percent of Presidential selections in the 20th century, the decision-making process that occurs prior to Senate consideration amounts to an approval process almost as significant as that rendered by Congress. Combining the analysis of documents from seven presidential libraries and numerous archives with personal interviews granted by former government officials close to their respective presidents, the author notes the political struggles that Supreme Court nominees must first survive within the Executive Branch, before the nomination fight moves to the Senate. The author concludes that three factors are now crucial for a Supreme Court nomination to make a positive political mark on a President's historical legacy: reasonable expectations from his supporters, decision-making flexibility, and highly qualified subordinates. Yalof adeptly parallels the experiences of those Presidents who sucessfully employed such mechanics (Ford and Clinton) with those who sometimes did not (Nixon and Reagan). An excellent book for anyone interested in recent Supreme Court history and the politics of the changing times it represents.√ĄPhilip Young Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Yalof (political science, Univ. of Connecticut) has provided an insightful analysis of the process by which recent American presidents have selected their Supreme Court nominees. The author relies on the presidential papers of seven modern chief executives from Truman to Reagan. He also has collected interview data from a number of key figures in the executive branch who have participated in the judicial selection process. Yalof contends that the outcome of a Senate vote on a nominee's confirmation is much influenced by the political acumen that went into the selection process. He also contends that, contrary to conventional wisdom, presidents often know or care little about how a future justice will vote once he or she is on the Court. Yalof's book may be compared with Justices & Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court, ed. by Henry J. Abraham (CH, Jul'92) and Picking Federal Judges by Sheldon Goldman (CH, Feb'98), which focused on lower court appointments. Yalof's writing style is clear and easy to follow, and the index and bibliography are well prepared. Highly recommended for general readers, undergraduates, and graduate students. R. A. Carp; University of Houston

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. vii
1 Introductionp. 1
2 Truman Rewards Loyalty and Friendshipp. 20
3 Eisenhower Takes on "Cronyism"p. 41
4 Kennedy and Johnson Restore the Politics of Patronagep. 70
5 Nixon and Ford The "Southern Strategy" and Political Realityp. 97
6 Reagan's Pursuit of Conservative Ideologuesp. 133
7 A Closer Look Patterns and Problems in Nominee Selectionp. 168
Epilogue: The Selection Practices of Bush and Clinton Some Initial Observationsp. 188
Notesp. 209
Bibliographyp. 269
Indexp. 281