chapter  11
21 Pages

Gender and the Federal Judiciary

By 2003, only Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had achieved the distinction of appointing women to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although nominations to the high court are always newsworthy, the selection of Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg-replacing Potter Stewart and Byron White respectively-attracted more attention than usual from legal scholars, politicians, special interest groups, the media, and the public. As the first and second women to serve as Supreme Court justices, their nominations were accompanied by speculation about how they would vote on issues coming before the Court. More specifically, there was widespread interest in how they would vote on claims involving gender equality and reproductive rights. The assumption that gender affects judicial decision making fueled the preoccupation with the nominations of these two justices; observers believed that as women justices, they would behave differently from their brethren. O'Connor and Ginsburg are, of course, the most visible women on the federal bench, but the appointment of women to the lower federal courts is typically accompanied by a related set of questions, concerns, and assumptions.