Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

John J. Pitney, Jr.

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2012 Ryan Shaffer


This paper examines the causes of the rise in vacancies on the federal courts in recent decades. Under President Barack Obama, the number of vacancies on the federal courts has sharply jumped. This is due to firm opposition by Senate Republicans, who have used the various procedural tools of that body to make it difficult for nominees to get confirmation. This antagonism is the result of a shift in how the parties view the courts and their role in the American political process. The Warren Court's expansion of substantive due process rights increased the Court's powers to the chagrin of conservatives. Republicans responded by blocking the nomination of Abe Fortas for Chief Justice; Democrats retaliated by defeating several of Richard Nixon's nominees to replace Fortas. These battles, and the prominence of legal issues such as abortion, would culminate in the vicious fight over Ronald Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the Court, which influenced increasingly bitter fights in recent decades. I also propose a possible solution to the obstruction problem, inspired by procedures used in jury selection.