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Nixon to Reagan: Reshaping the Supreme Court

Speaking to future scholars and audiences tuned in via YouTube, the White House veterans participating in the recent Nixon Legacy Forum, Nixon to Reagan: Reshaping the Supreme Court, held November 13, 2012 in Washington DC, discussed two major transitions within the U.S. Supreme Court.

The first transition addressed by the panelists was the evolution of the Court’s judicial philosophy; moving away from the activist ideology of the Warren Court toward the principles of judicial restraint. Panelists elaborated on the impact of President Nixon’s appointments of Chief Justice Burger, and Associate Justices Blackmun, Powell and Rehnquist—who later became Chief Justice under President Reagan—had on the judicial philosophy of the Court.

The panelists then turned to the issue of growing partisanship now expected in the hearing process for Supreme Court nominees before the Senate Judiciary Committee. While the battle over the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court is one of the bluntest examples of recent partisan obstruction, it is clear the seeds of partisan discontent were planted earlier, forcing administrations to think more strategically about the nomination process. Appointments to the Supreme Court are indeed one of the most important fiduciary responsibilities of the presidency.

Discussing his own impact on the Court, President Nixon once wrote, “I consider my four appointments to the Supreme Court to have been among the most constructive and far reaching actions of my presidency.”

Photos by Aaron Clamage.