This excerpt is from a piece that originally ran on March 27, 2023.
I often ask my Georgetown Law students what stands out as the most surprising thing they learned from my class on American presidents and the federal judiciary, and there is one name that invariably leads the discussion — President Jimmy Carter. Despite holding the distinction as the only president since Zachary Taylor to leave office without appointing a Supreme Court justice, Carter did more to reshape the nature and direction of our federal courts than almost any democratic president before or since.
In the end, President Carter succeeded in appointing 41 women and 57 racial minorities to the federal judiciary during his four years in office, equivalent to a 500 percent increase in the number of female federal judges and a nearly 200 percent increase in the number of nonwhite federal judges in U.S. history at the time. By contrast, 90 percent of President Reagan’s judicial nominees were white men during his administration’s ensuing eight years in office.