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Statement About Nominations to the Supreme Court

April 09, 1970

I HAVE reluctantly concluded--with the Senate as presently constituted--I cannot successfully nominate to the Supreme Court any Federal appellate judge from the South who believes as I do in the strict construction of the Constitution. Judges Carswell and Haynsworth have endured with admirable dignity vicious assaults on their intelligence, their honesty, and their character. They have been falsely charged with being racist. But when all the hypocrisy is stripped away, the real issue was their philosophy of strict construction of the Constitution, a philosophy that I share, and the fact that they had the misfortune of being born in the South. After the rejection of Judge Carswell and Judge Haynsworth, this conclusion is inescapable.

Both are distinguished jurists; both are among the finest judges in the Fourth and Fifth Circuits; both had previously been approved by the Senate for the second highest Federal court; yet, both were rejected. In my opinion, neither would have been rejected had he not been born in a Southern State.

In selecting both men, I had several criteria in mind. First and foremost, they had to be men who shared my legal philosophy of strict construction of the Constitution, men who would help to restore to the United States Supreme Court the balance that it genuinely needs--that balance I pledged to the American people that I would help to restore.

Secondly, I set the criteria that both have experience on the highest Federal appeals court--next to the United States Supreme Court itself.

Third, I chose them because they were both men of the South.

I do not believe that any segment of our people or any section of the country can lay claim to one or more seats on the High Court as its own preserve. But controversial and far-reaching decisions of past and coming years are far better received when each section of the country and every major segment of our people can look to the Court and see there its legal philosophy articulately represented.

Four of the present members of the Court are from the East, one from the Midwest, two from the West, and one from the South. More than one-fourth of the people of this Nation live in the South; they deserve representation on the Court.

But more important than geographical balance is philosophical balance--the need to have represented on the Court those who believe in strict construction of the Constitution as well as others who believe in the liberal construction which has constituted the majority on the Court for the past 15 years.

With yesterday's action, the Senate has said that no southern Federal appellate judge who believes in a strict interpretation of the Constitution can be elevated to the Supreme Court.

As long as the Senate is constituted the way it is today, I will not nominate another southerner and let him be subjected to the kind of malicious character assassination accorded both Judges Haynsworth and Carswell. However, my next nomination will be made in the very near future; a President should not leave that vacancy on the Court when it can be filled. My next nominee will be from outside the South and he will fulfill the criteria of a strict constructionist with judicial experience either from a Federal bench or on a State appeals court.

I understand the bitter feeling of millions of Americans who live in the South about the act of regional discrimination that took place in the Senate yesterday. They have my assurance that the day will come when men like Judges Carswell and Haynsworth can and will sit on the High Court.

Note: An announcement on April 14, 1970, by White House Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler of the President's intention to nominate Judge Harry A. Blackmun as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and biographical information on Judge Blackmun are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 6, p. 522).

The Senate confirmed the nomination and Judge Blackmun was sworn in on June 9, 1970.

Richard Nixon, Statement About Nominations to the Supreme Court Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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