Bush-appointed judges most conservative on record, new UH study finds

Lead investigator Robert Carp says slant most evident in civil rights, liberties decisions

Judges appointed by President George W. Bush are the most conservative on record when it comes to civil rights and liberties, according to a new study by a political science professor at the University of Houston.

Bush judicial appointees are significantly more conservative than even the very conservative voting record of jurists appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. in the realm of civil rights and liberties, said Robert Carp, professor of political science at UH. When it comes to these decisions, the Bush team is a full 5 percentage points more conservative than even the trial judges appointed by Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr.

"Liberal" judges would generally seek in their rulings to extend the freedoms of abortion, gay rights, the rights of women and minorities and freedom of speech, Carp explained. "Conservative" jurists, by contrast, would prefer to limit such rights.

In a previous study that was released in August 2004, Carp and his team of researchers predicted that if Bush was re-elected that year, the federal judiciary could take on an even sharper conservative slant. At the time, Bush's judicial appointees delivered liberal decisions 27.9 percent of the time in cases involving civil liberties and rights. For this latest study, researchers analyzed more data, and the figure has dropped to 27.2 percent.

"Our findings are significant because the general consensus is that President Reagan is the most modern conservative president on record, and yet the judges appointed by George W. Bush are even more conservative than the Reagan judges," said Carp, the study's lead investigator.

The new study, "The Voting Behavior of George W. Bush's Judges: How Sharp a Turn to the Right?," also found that only 33 percent of decisions handed down by Bush jurists were liberal. Presidents Johnson, Carter, and Clinton, scored 52, 51, and 44 percent, respectively. His GOP predecessors, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr., ranked 38, 43, 36, and 37 percent, respectively. The overall scores of the Bush judges are not "off the charts" in their level of conservatism, but they are sharply right of center.

"As the Supreme Court becomes somewhat more conservative with the appointment of Justice Alito and as more Bush judges are appointed to the policy-making appellate courts, the overall tone of the judiciary should be more conservative three years from now than it is today," he speculated.

Carp's research also found that the minorities and women whom Bush has appointed to the bench are somewhat more liberal in their voting patterns than the white males he has appointed to the bench.

In the earlier study, the voting record of the Bush judges in the area of Labor and Economic regulation was fairly moderate. The latest study that relies on a larger data set indicates that the Bush judges are very conservative in this issue area as well and could not be called "moderate" in their voting behavior.

The data on trial court decisions were taken from a database consisting of more than 75,0000 opinions published in the Federal Supplement by almost 1,800 judges from 1933 through the fall of 2005. Included in this overall data set were 795 decisions handed down by judges appointed by President George W. Bush.

The research findings appear in a chapter of the book "Principles and Practice of American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Third Edition" (forthcoming, July 2006) published by CQ Press. Analysis was conducted by Carp and political scientists Kenneth L. Manning, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, and Ronald Stidham, Appalachian State University.

CQ Press, a division of Congressional Quarterly Inc., is a private, independent publishing firm based in Washington, D.C., that produces college and reference works on government and politics.

For more information about the book, contact James Headley at jheadley@cqpress.com or visit www.cqpress.com.

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