Ideological Drift in Supreme Court Justices

To answer this our group looked into the influences and effects that played a role in Justice preferences and case outcomes, so e decided to look at the ideological effects of individual Justices on the Court itself. From that framed core interest, we came up with a research question of, “In the confines of the Burger Court (1969-1986), do the Justices of the United States Supreme Court drift ideologically over their tenure on the bench? ” We felt that this very narrow and extremely controlled Court era would allow us to best approach our hypothesis without the bias of changing courts, inexperienced Justices, and Chief Justice turnover.

Thus, our hypothesis came to be that Justices’ ideologies tend to rift towards the center of the spectrum over their tenure largely due to their life appointments, personal experiences, and court experience. Throughout our paper you will notice references to Martin-Quinn scores, our main source of quantitative data, and an individual breakdown of Justice’s who served during Burger’s tenure as Chief Justice. We include a brief discussion of the Burger Court, but then largely leave his influence behind and focus on those who shared the bench with him.

We do this in an attempt to remove his influence as a Chief Justice, while making each of the justices we analyze hold equal authoritative position relative to each other in the voting process. Thus, we blend empirical data and individual case studies together in an effort to understand both how and why Justices shift, as well as in what direction. In our data section we will further discuss some of the variables we worked with to best understand Burger Court Background: The Burger Court was created when President Richard Nixon nominated Warren Burger in 1969.

The President, along with his republican cabinet, is thought to have believed that Burger’s influence as Chief Justice would represent a stark contrast to he previous Warren Court. The Court encountered numerous landmark cases, but abortion, as their rulings on cases such as Roe v. Wade (1973), Farman v. Georgia (1972) & Gregg v. Georgia (1976), as well as the Board of Regents of the University of California v. Bake (1978) were each extreme political “hot-button issues”.

The Court itself is historically looked at as moderate, as they didn’t move to change the prior rulings of the Warren Court, and their ground on both sides of the debate between civil liberties, social Justice, and capital punishment. The Court mimed to be steered and directed by trying to find the “middle” of the issues they encountered. This analysis would seemingly support our hypothesis, but is far too generalized. Rehnquist: Republican President Richard Nixon nominated Justice William Rehnquist in 1971 and shortly after the Senate voted he was confirmed as a new Justice of the Supreme Court (SCOUTS Media).

From early on in his first term, it was clearly visible that Rehnquist would be the staunch conservative opinion on the Court that Nixon was hoping for. Justice Rehnquist was often the loan dissenter while fighting to keep deader powers from expanding even though there were fellow republicans on the Court as well (SCOUTS Media). After Justice Rehnquist first full year on the court, he compiled a Martin-Quinn score of +3. 98, which is nearing the end of the conservative scale at +4. 84 (SCOUTS-Scores).

Over the course of Justice William Rehnquist tenure on the Warren Burger Court he provided the conservative representation President Nixon had been vying for while in office. One of the earliest cases in Rehnquist tenure where his vote reinforced the idea that he was the most conservative Justice on the Court was the case of Keyes v. School District No. 1 (1972). It was decided that the school district in Denver, Colorado appeared to have controlled segregation through governmental legislation and as such it was the burden of the school district to prove otherwise.

In his dissent Rehnquist stated, “The equally important fact that the consequences of manipulative drawing of attendance zones in a school district the size of Denver does not necessarily result in denial of equal protection to all minority students” (Cornell L”). Rehnquist decidedly voted against the majority of seven due to not only the lack of explicit evidence that proved the legislation was to reduce segregation and that the effects of such boundary drawing caused inequality amongst the education of the minorities.

Not one year later did a case come about to the Supreme Court that would once again be a case for Justice Rehnquist to produce his ideological stance a little more effectively than Keyes case. The case was Roe v. Wade (1973) and the vote was similar to that in Keyes, although Justice Rehnquist was Joined in the decision to dissent with Justice White. Justice Rehnquist dissented from the majority opinion for a variety of reasons, mainly that he Court ignored its historical precedent that Justices “should never formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts” (Cornell L”).

In addition, the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment came after several states enacted laws prohibiting abortion procedures and therefore this decision should not impact all state’s statutes but only apply to the plaintiff. Towards the end of the sass’s another case debating the use of racial influences on education came to the Court and it provided yet another platform for Rehnquist to continue his conservative interpretation of the U. S. Judicial system. The conservative stance Justice William Just as Nixon had expected and hoped, Rehnquist was the conservative voice the President needed on the Court to help direct his legislative plans.

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