Richard M. Nixon


Who were his U.S. Supreme Court appointees?

Nixon appointed four men to the U.S. Supreme Court—one as Chief Justice and three as associate justices. In 1969, he appointed D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge Warren E. Burger to chief justice of the Court to replace Earl Warren. Burger served until his retirement in 1986. He crafted many important First Amendment decisions, including the Court’s decisions in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) and Miller v. California (1973).

Nixon appointed Harry Blackmun, a close friend of Burger’s, as an associate justice in 1970, where he served until 1994. Burger and Blackmun originally were known as the “Minnesota Twins” because they were both from the Gopher State and originally voted the same way in many cases. Over time, Blackmun—who had been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit—moved to the left in his judicial philosophy. He later renounced capital punishment in his last year on the Court.

Nixon also appointed Lewis F. Powell Jr. to the Court, where he served from 1972 to 1987. Powell was a distinguished attorney who had been a former president of the American Bar Association. He tended to vote as a moderate on the Court and was the key swing vote in many cases.

Nixon’s last appointment was Arizona-based William H. Rehnquist, who had never been a judge before his Supreme Court appointment. Rehnquist worked in the Justice Department, as assistant attorney general to the Office of Legal Counsel. He came to the Court in 1972 and did not leave until his death in 2005. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan elevated him to Chief Justice as Burger’s replacement.


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