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Michael J. Gerhardt


  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Michael J. Gerhardt: How Jimmy Carter Imperiled Roe v. Wade

    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.

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