AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

Personalities and partisanship: how the Rehnquist Court reached its civil rights decisions

by Aaron Safane

Institution: University of Georgia
Department: History
Degree: MA
Year: 2007
Keywords: Supreme Court
Record ID: 1811209
Full text PDF: http://purl.galileo.usg.edu/uga_etd/safane_aaron_m_200705_ma


This work focuses on four major areas where the Rehnquist Court affected civil rights: the death penalty, race-based affirmative action, gender-based affirmative action, and minorities’ voting rights. Each of these areas will feature one key case – McCleskey v. Kemp (1987), City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson (1989), Johnson v. Transportation Agency (1987), and Shaw v. Reno (1993) – and the impact that American politics and the justices’ relationships, personalities, and political leanings had on these opinions. These four paradigm cases demonstrate that in the Rehnquist Court’s civil rights rulings, the justices narrowly interpreted the Equal Protection Clause and Title VII to issue conservative rulings in racial discrimination cases; yet largely because of Sandra Day O’Connor’s different responses to discrimination that women and minorities faced, the Court issued more moderate rulings in gender discrimination cases. In all of these decisions, partisanship played a larger role than the justices’ schools of jurisprudence.