In recent decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken on an
increased political prominence, due largely to such controversial
issues as abortion, the separation of church and state, and civil
rights. Because such issues could be affected by a Court member's
personal beliefs and experiences, the question of how race,
religion, and gender influence Supreme Court appointments is a
crucial one. In this work, Barbara Perry explores the impact of
these factors on the Court, placing the presidential nominations in
their historical and political contexts. She examines the question
of whether justices should be chosen in order to create a
representative court that reflects elements in American
The book is based on both primary and secondary sources,
including interviews with seven members of the Court. Following a
detailed introduction, Perry provides a historical analysis of the
appointments of eight Catholics, five Jews, one black, and one
woman, revealing a link between the appointments and the political,
social, electoral, and demographic contexts in which they were
made. She traces the decline in importance of the religious factor,
as the ascendence of religious groups in mainstream politics no
longer made it necessary for presidents to maintain a
representative Court position. Representative considerations,
however, will continue to play a role in the selection process, and
Perry argues for a reconciliation between the undeniable pull of
politics and ideology and the demands for merit-based appointments.
This work will add an important new perspective to studies of the
Supreme Court, as well as to the study of law, political science,
and American history.
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