Friday, September 10, 2004

Study: Bush Judges Most Conservative on Rights

Thu Sep 9, 5:14 PM ET

By Jeff Franks

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A study of thousands of federal court cases has found that judges appointed by President Bush are the most conservative on record in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties.

The study's authors say the re-election of Bush would give U.S. courts a strong rightward tilt that could last for years.

"If Bush wins re-election you're going to have a very conservative judiciary," University of Houston political scientist Robert Carp said on Thursday. "An average president puts in about a third of the federal judiciary in two terms, so this really is a watershed year in terms of what happens."

Carp along with Kenneth Manning of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and Ronald Stidham from Appalachian State University looked at federal court decisions in the Federal Supplement's database of 70,000 cases and categorized them as "liberal" or "conservative" based on case content.

They found that Republican appointees issued liberal rulings in about a third of their cases while Democrats did so 45 percent to 50 percent of the time.

But in civil rights and civil liberties cases -- abortion, gay rights, freedom of speech, right to privacy, race relations, for example -- Bush judges made liberal decisions only 26.5 percent of the time.

That was well below 37.9 percent for appointees of Richard Nixon, 32.3 percent for Ronald Reagan and 32.2 percent for George H.W. Bush, all fellow Republican presidents.

Appointees of Democrats Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton
gave liberal rulings, respectively, 58.1 percent, 51.3 percent and 42 percent of the time in the same types of cases.

"George W. Bush is the most conservative president that we have data for," Karp said. "In civil rights and liberties cases, his judges were 25 percent more conservative than those of other Republicans."

When Bush became president in January 2001, following two terms in office by Democrat Clinton, 51 percent of federal judges were Democratic appointees versus 49 percent Republican.
On average, Carp said, presidents get to name about 17 percent of the federal judiciary during a four-year term. Sometimes the number is higher -- Reagan named about 50 percent of the judges during his eight years in office, and the study said his "impact on the judicial branch continues to be substantial."

The study was published in Judicature, the publication of the American Judicature Society, a nonpartisan organization of judges, lawyers and others involved in justice administration.

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