ALS as president, signed “Jimmy,” two pages, 7 x 10.5, White House letterhead, March 25, 1977. Letter to West Virginia Senator Jennings Randolph, in full: "We are establishing selection committees for federal circuit judges, have one functioning for FBI director, and will use a similar procedure for choosing future Supreme Court justices if vacancies occur. This is a process which worked superbly when I was Governor of Georgia. It leaves complete control of the final selection in the hands of the responsible person, removes some of the political disadvantages from personnel appointments, and is very popular because it gives the public legitimate assurance that selections are made on a basis of merit. Also, distinguished citizens can be appointed (publicly or privately) to the selection committee itself. I've enclosed a copy of an order issued by me for circuit judge selection. I'm sure you will find this interesting, and you may think it advisable to have a similar group in your state to make recommendations for district judges. I would appreciate your private and rank comments on this process." Carter has added below the letterhead: "Personal and Confidential." In fine condition, with staple holes to the upper left corner. Accompanied by the referenced executive order, headed: "Establishing the United States Circuit Judge Nominating Commission."
As part of his 1976 presidential campaign, Carter vowed to alter traditional methods of selecting federal judges if he were elected. Similar to the Judicial Selection Committee he implemented as Governor of Georgia, Carter promised to establish nominating commissions that would select candidates on the basis of their professional competence. On December 13, roughly a month after defeating Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election, Carter, along with future Attorney General Griffin Bell and Mississippi Senator and longtime chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee James Eastland, began setting clear guidelines on how best to divide responsibility for choosing federal judges, deliberations which led to President Carter establishing the United States Circuit Judge Nominating Commission on February 14, 1977. A fascinating letter regarding Carter’s impact on judicial reform—handwritten letters by Carter as president remain exceedingly rare.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.