The boldest conservative court in the United States in the view of scholars FACT SHEET: Tipping the Balance on the Fourth Circuit The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit For years, the Fourth Circuit has been viewed by ultraconservatives as the model of success for their court-packing plan. It has handed down decision after decision advancing the aims of movement conservatism. Now, a series of departures from the bench has resulted in a more moderate court. In response, President Bush and his Senate allies are scrambling to fill five vacancies in a nakedly political attempt to reassert conservative dominance before a new administration enters the White House. These nominations could tilt the balance of the court for decades to come. The Fourth Circuit Under Conservative Control [*] * During its conservative heyday, the Fourth Circuit issued opinions striking down portions of the Violence Against Women Act and the Clean Water Act; upholding Virginias mandatory parental contact statute for abortions; ruling in favor of Big Tobacco that the FDA lacks the authority to regulate nicotine as a drug; and invalidating a federal statute that prohibited states from selling lists of licensed drivers for a profit. It even went so far as to declare that federal law enforcement officials do not have to follow the landmark decision in Miranda v. Arizona, requiring police officers to inform the people they arrest of some of their basic constitutional rights. * A study conducted by Prof. James Liebman of Columbia University Law School during the height of this circuits conservative dominance revealed that federal courts nationwide granted new hearings for death row inmates in 40% of habeas corpus cases compared to the less than 4% for the Fourth Circuit. An Activist Approach * According to a May 24, 1999, New York Times article, the Fourth Circuit was the boldest conservative court in the nation and earned the reputation of reshap[ing] large areas of federal law and constitutional interpretation. * The Fourth Circuits conservative majority made sweeping and activist efforts to favor corporate interests and expand governmental power. Boalt Law School Professor Jesse Choper observed theyve gone out of their way to reach these decisions.