SOURCE: Special to HNN
Jim Cullen: Review of Michael J. Gerhardt's "The Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy" (Oxford, 2013)
Jim Cullen, who teaches at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York, is a book review editor at HNN. His latest book, Sensing the Past: Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions, was recently published by Oxford University Press. Cullen blogs at American History Now.
Michael J. Gerhardt is Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor in Constitutional Law & Director, Center for Law and Government at the University of North Carolina Law School.Jimmy Carter had significant impact on judicial selection in several ways. The first involved the Supreme Court. The fact that he had no Supreme Court appointments made it easier for President Reagan to build directly upon the four appointments made by President Nixon to thwart Warren Court decisions expanding minority and criminal defendants’ rights at the expense of state sovereignty.An obvious target for Reagan was the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Initially, there was no Republican backlash to the opinion. Indeed, the initial, public response to Roe was largely silence. When, for instance, the Senate held confirmation hearings on President Ford’s nomination of John Paul Stevens to replace the retiring William O. Douglas, not a single senator asked Stevens about Roe. Yet, by the time Reagan was campaigning for the presidency, the Republican platform had called for overruling Roe; and as president, Reagan made Roe a principal example of the Court’s liberalism and pledged to appoint justices who would overturn Roe, among other cases. The question is what had happened in the meantime.