The President nominates individuals to serve on the Supreme Court as well as the other federal courts, but they must be confirmed by the Senate to assume the role as a federal judge. However, this process can be highly politicized, which has prevented certain supreme court nominees from being confirmed to the bench. Based on the podcast episode "History of Failed Supreme Court Nominations," aired on NPR's Here & Now, how many nominees have been confirmed to the supreme court bench out of the total number nominated? Referring to both Robert Bork and Harriet Miers, what prevents them from being nominated? Explain how their nominations were opposed, either by the opposition or within their own political party. For this question, refer to the Politico article "Labor nominee Puzder withdraws" as well as the New York Times article "The Lesson of Zoe Baird." Who is the individual and what position were they being nominated for? Were they confirmed? Explain what happened. What were some of the reasons why they were not confirmed? As for political opposition, was the opposition directed from their political opponents or from within their own party?
The Here & Now podcast episode is a discussion conducted by Jeremy Hobson with Joanne Freeman, a professor of history at Yale, and Edward Ayers, a professor of humanities at the University of Richmond. Their lively and fascinating conversation puts the contentious issue of Supreme Court nominations in a historical context.
They point out that a high number of judges have not been accepted. Only 125 out of 162 have been confirmed. That comes out to seventy-seven percent—a number that is surprisingly low.
Ronald Reagan's controversial nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 failed for several reasons. Prof. Freeman and Prof. Ayers both correctly claim that Bork's long academic record and publications were problematic. They also point out that his "judicial philosophy of originalism" was a major concern. They did not, however, mention that his role in Watergate was also an impediment to his confirmation.
Harriet Miers, a White House lawyer during the administration of George W. Bush, was rejected by the Senate in 2005. Although the Miers case is less well-known than the Bork nomination, Prof. Freeman and Prof. Ayers argue that it is significant because Bush's own Republican party largely opposed her. In contrast, the Republicans have strongly supported both of Donald Trump's nominees to the Supreme Court.
Somewhat surprisingly, the show does not mention the case of Merrick Garland. Garland, chosen by Barack Obama, did not get a Senate hearing.
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