Carswell’s mediocre judicial record and prosegregation stance resulted in his nomination to the Supreme Court being rejected by the Senate.
President Richard M. Nixon appointed Carswell to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1969, and Carswell was his choice to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant when Abe Fortas resigned in 1969. Nixon selected Carswell after the Senate rejected his first nominee, Clement Haynsworth, Jr.
Nixon erred politically in nominating Carswell. As a candidate for the Georgia legislature in 1948, Carswell had supported racial segregation. Moreover, his record as a jurist was unimpressive; his decisions as a district judge had a high reversal rate. Nebraska senator Roman Hruska drew attention to Carswell’s deficiencies when he declared, without any sense of irony, that mediocre Americans also deserved representation on the Supreme Court.
Nixon aides informed the president that Carswell had no chance of receiving Senate confirmation. Nevertheless, Nixon ordered his staff to continue their efforts to garner support for the nominee. Despite their efforts, on April 8, 1970, the Senate rejected Carswell by a vote of fifty-one to forty-five Nixon attacked Congress for what he termed its opposition to any southern nominee. Carswell resigned from the bench, lost a 1970 bid to become the Republican candidate for the Senate, and returned to his private law practice.
Haynsworth, Clement, Jr.
Nixon, Richard M.
Nominations to the Court
Segregation, de facto
Segregation, de jure