Yalof, David Alistair

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Yalof, David Alistair


Education: University of Virginia, B.A. (with honors), 1988, J.D., 1991; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1997.


Office—Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut, 341 Mansfield Rd., U-1024, Storrs, CT 06269-1024. E-mail[email protected].


University of Connecticut, Storrs, associate professor of political science.


Order of the Coif, University of Virginia Law School, 1991; Johns Hopkins University fellowship, 1993-97 and 1995-96; grants from Johns Hopkins University, 1996, Harry S. Truman Library Institute, 1996, Eisenhower World Affairs Institute, 1996, Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, 1996 and 2001, University of Connecticut, 1998 and 2001, Gerald R. Ford Library, 2000, and George Bush Presidential Library Foundation, 2002; Best Dissertation on the American Presidency Prize, Texas A & M University, 1998; Richard E. Neustadt Prize, American Political Science Association, 1999, for Pursuit of Justices: Presidential Politics and the Selection of Supreme Court Nominees; University of Connecticut faculty award, 2002; ACE fellowship, American Council on Education, 2004-05.


Pursuit of Justices: Presidential Politics and the Selection of Supreme Court Nominees, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1999.

(With Kenneth Dautrich) The First Amendment and the Media in the Court of Public Opinion, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to professional journals, including Political Research Quarterly, Cardozo Law Review, Current Politics and Economics of Europe, and Judicature.


Political science professor David Alistair Yalof specializes in constitutional law and judicial and executive branch politics. He is the author of Pursuit of Justices: Presidential Politics and the Selection of Supreme Court Nominees, a study of the process of nominating judges to the high court since World War II. He focuses not on the more public Senate confirmation hearings, but on the broad political environment within which such nominations have been made. Much has been written of the influence of such judges as Earl Warren and John Marshall, as well as controversial appointments, such as those of Louis Brandeis, Robert Bork, and Clarence Thomas, but the history of less well-known appointments can be as interesting, Yalof points out. In compiling his history, Yalof drew on the resources of presidential libraries and interviews with former government officials, including President Gerald R. Ford and former Attorneys General Herbert Brownell, Nicholas Katzenbach, and Ramsey Clark.

Yalof notes the extent to which various presidents have been influenced in their nominations, particularly by political factors. He also writes that some presidents, such as Harry Truman and Bill Clinton, began their searches when vacancies occurred, while others, like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, had their people in mind well in advance. Kennedy favored Arthur Goldberg, who had helped him secure the labor vote, while Johnson was indebted to Abe Fortas, who was his personal lawyer and friend. Dwight D. Eisenhower named Earl Warren chief justice because Warren had been influential in having Eisenhower nominated over Robert A. Taft at the 1952 convention. When Ronald Reagan chose Sandra Day O'Connor, his selection was widely approved, but his conservative choice, Bork, was rejected, leading to the appointment of the more moderate Anthony Kennedy. Perhaps the most controversial nomination, by George H.W. Bush, was the black legal scholar Clarence Thomas, who was appointed after a volatile confirmation process in Congress. Failed nominations covered by Yalof include two by Richard Nixon, whose southern nominees, Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell, failed to be confirmed. The details of the Thomas appointment, as well as others that postdated the initial study upon which Yalof bases this volume, are included in an epilogue chapter that also covers the nominations of David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

In reviewing the book for the Presidential Studies Quarterly, Elliot E. Slotnick wrote: "Yalof's book, which uses primary source materials from presidential libraries, as well as elite interviews with participants in the nominations studied, is the prototypical 'good read.' It is engagingly written and interesting throughout in its twenty-eight major and four ancillary case studies." Craig F. Emmert reviewed Pursuit of Justices in the Journal of Politics, describing it as "a well-researched and interesting book. The use of primary data, the interviews, the case studies, and the information they provide are truly impressive. Presidential scholars no doubt will enjoy the book's discussions of presidents' interactions with their top advisors in choosing nominees for the Supreme Court. At the same time, the detailed descriptions of prospective nominees' qualifications, the evaluation of candidates, and the discussion of presidents' reasons for settling on particular nominees will be appreciated by students of the courts."



America, April 15, 2000, Philip Weinberg, review of Pursuit of Justices: Presidential Politics and the Selection of Supreme Court Nominees, p. 26.

Booklist, September 15, 1999, Vernon Ford, review of Pursuit of Justices, p. 203.

Journal of Politics, February, 2001, Craig F. Emmert, review of Pursuit of Justices, p. 300.

Michigan Law Review, May, 2000, John C. Yoo, review of Pursuit of Justices, p. 1436.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, September, 2000, Elliot E. Slotnick, review of Pursuit of Justices, p. 606.


University of Connecticut Department of Political Science Web site,http://www.polisci.uconn.edu/ (October 25, 2006), biographical information.*