Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

This Week in Liberal Judicial Activism—Week of July 16


July 20      1990—After nearly 34 years of liberal judicial activism on the Supreme Court, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. announces his retirement.  As Jan Crawford Greenburg describes it in Supreme Conflict, “For conservatives, Brennan’s retirement gave George H.W. Bush the chance of a lifetime.…  It was that rare moment when a conservative president was positioned to replace a liberal giant.…  It would give conservatives a dramatic opportunity to cement their majority and firmly take ideological control of the Court.”  But “the president did not want the kind of bruising fight over the Supreme Court that Reagan was willing to endure.”  Five days later President Bush nominates … David H. Souter to fill Brennan’s seat.


July 22      2004—Continuing their unprecedented campaign of judicial filibusters, Senate Democrats exert their minority power to prevent cloture on President George W. Bush’s nominations of Richard A. Griffin, David W. McKeague, and Henry W. Saad to supposed Michigan seats on the Sixth Circuit.  Griffin, first nominated in May 2003, and McKeague, first nominated in November 2001, are finally confirmed in June 2005.  Saad, never confirmed, finally withdraws his nomination in March 2006.  The seat to which he was nominated has been vacant for 7-1/2 years.

Another supposed Michigan seat on the Sixth Circuit has been largely vacant for more than eight years.  In November 2001, President Bush nominates Susan Bieke Neilson to the seat.  After years of obstruction, Neilson is finally confirmed in October 2005, but she dies in January 2006, before serving three full months.

President Bush nominates Raymond M. Kethledge and Stephen Joseph Murphy to these seats in June 2006.  Neither has yet received even a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.


For an explanation of this recurring feature, see here.


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