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"Previously on the West Wing" spoken by C.J.

When a conservative Supreme Court justice suddenly dies, the Bartlet administration scrambles to find a worthy replacement and the halls are flooded with candidates -- but the President senses that the process is a political minefield until Josh hits upon a wild plan that could open the door for an unthinkable liberal. The game continues as potential judicial nominees are marched in and out, some serving only as press decoys, but everyone gets curious when the President meets with a bright but conservative judge.



Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen Brady has died from a heart attack, refocusing the White House on naming a successor. All members of the Senior Staff are assigned a list of possible nominees to interview. Included in Josh's list is liberal Judge Evelyn Baker Lang, who would be too liberal to be confirmed. However, Josh meeting with her is part of a plan to ensure a relatively smooth confirmation process, as her name is expected to scare the Republicans and placate the Democrats, making all sides feel appeased with a moderate being nominated. C.J. suggests that Toby be included in the meeting and that it be held in the Roosevelt Room to make the interview more visible, an idea that Leo approves.

While meeting with Judge Lang, Lang calls Toby and Josh on their game, acknowledges the political realities and asks that instead of having a mock interview, they talk about something irrelevant to pass the time while they continue making her visible.

Act I[]

Later, Lisa Wolfe, the Republican Staff Director on the Judiciary Committee, confronts Josh over rumors that they'd been interviewing liberal judges, including Lang, and impresses upon him the dangers of nominating someone that far left. Senior Staff meet in the Oval Office and after Toby announces that three Democrats had praised them for looking at "bold choices", the Senior Staff agree that the strategy is working. Having previously been impressed by Lang and her political awareness, both Josh and Toby suggest she be brought in for a second interview while more serious candidates for the short list are given interviews with the President.

Judge E. Bradley Shelton meets with President Bartlet. When asked about his opinions on affirmative action, Shelton indicates that he has no position. Bartlet asks Shelton to pick a subject on which he does have an opinion and Shelton refuses, indicating that he considers the arguments and particulars of the case far more important to his decision process than any opinion he might have about the particular issue.

Meanwhile, Lang meets with Josh and Toby again, where they discuss possible things that would come up at a confirmation hearing. Lang indicates that she would like to know exactly who would be asking each question (rather than the question being from a Republican panel member). When pressed, Lang demonstrates the different approaches she would take with each member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, showing incredible political awareness and an appropriate path to take to pass the question barrage of three different Senators, to both Josh and Toby's great happiness. However, when asked about her background, Lang brings up the fact that when she was in law school, she had an abortion.

Act II[]

C.J. and Toby indicate that the abortion makes Lang a liability, though Josh says she's still useful as a way to encourage compromise. However, C.J. indicates that the Republicans only need to leak it to the tabloids and it immediately becomes a nightmare situation. When they later meet in the Oval Office, they inform the President about their decision to take her off the list because she had an abortion after it was legalized, angering Bartlet who tells them to put her on the short list as it was the least they could do for all she'd done for them. When asked by Leo, Bartlet confirms that their current preferred nominee is Shelton.

After, Josh and Donna talk about Donna showing him cookies from her parents. Josh comments how they have two cats on the lid of the cookie tin. Donna informs him that they'd originally had one cat but after he'd died, they went to get a new cat but couldn't agree on which cat to get. Unwilling to compromise, the parents decided to get both cats. This inspires Josh on a way to get Lang on the Supreme Court: Chief Justice Roy Ashland had indicated to President Bartlet that he wouldn't resign because Bartlet couldn't install another liberal to replace him. Josh suggests having Ashland retire with Lang replacing him, while the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary committee get to pick a conservative to replace Brady. When given the idea, Toby pans the idea, pointing out that there was a good chance that Ashland might still die anyway before Bartlet leaves office and giving Bartlet time to replace him with another moderate, allowing them to appoint two left-leaning moderates and change the balance of power. Josh and Toby argue the idea loudly outside the Oval Office, oblivious to the President's glare and Debbie Fiderer's interruptions, until Fitterer sprays Josh in the face with a water bottle. When they present the idea to the President, Bartlet asks them to see if Ashland would agree.

Ashland agrees without argument (since he can't imagine the Republicans proposing anyone the White House could stomach) and Josh takes the idea to Lisa Wolfe, who gives Josh the name for the Republicans: Christopher Mulready. Josh gives Toby the name, who, initially, is furious about the idea but later supports it. He asks Josh for the game plan. Wolfe would go to the Republican leadership with the plan while Josh would talk with the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee - Senator Roland Pierce, the uncle of Ryan Pierce, Josh's aide, and Bartlet would meet with both Mulready and Lang to interview them both. Toby takes the name and plan to the President to add credibility to the idea (since he'd initially been against it while Josh had been championing the idea), who has a similar reaction to Toby's at Mulready's name.

Act III[]

That evening, C.J. clears out the press to give Bartlet the freedom to handle Mulready without him being seen as a likely candidate. Josh meets with Senator Pierce with a bottle of scotch from Ryan (warned not to try and keep up with him). Sen Pierce immediately dissuades Josh from offering the idea by commenting on his deep opposition to rumors that Mulready's name was circulating as a candidate. Meanwhile, Toby tries to keep Mulready comfortable in the Roosevelt Room and strikes up a debate with Mulready about the Defense of Marriage Act.

Josh ends up getting drunk and asks C.J. to replace him. Lang finishes up her interview with the President and walks into the Roosevelt Room to see Toby and Mulready debating. She quickly points out that Mulready would have actually struck down DOMA on account of states' rights even if he supports its position, much to the surprise of Toby. At this point, Josh pulls Toby out of the Roosevelt Room and the two update each other about their conversations thus far. As they discuss, they realize that Lang and Mulready have begun debating another issue and listen in to the discussion as the two debate the legal cases for each position. Toby goes to the President, encouraging him to go with the idea.

Act IV[]

Josh meets with Senator Pierce, telling him they think it would best serve the court for this plan to go ahead. Bartlet is shocked with Toby's sudden defense of Mulready, while Senator Pierce takes issue with the fact that they didn't pick a moderate, to which Josh replies that the Court has moderates, but once Ashland dies, it won't have any liberals left.

Mulready meets with the President, and his praise about Lang and his acknowledgement of the political atmosphere, along with his desire to see exceptional opinions, sufficiently impress the President for him to go along with the idea.

The next morning, Ashland resigns his seat while Bartlet introduces his nominees for the Supreme Court: the Honorable Chris Mulready, nominee for Associate Justice, and the Honorable Evelyn Lang, nominee for Chief Justice of the United States. Just prior to this, Bartlet asks Lang to sign a pocket-sized Constitution for Toby's daughter with her future title of Chief Justice.

Trivia / Goofs[]

  • Senator Pierce describes his nephew as "lean and hungry," a reference to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "Let me have men about me that are fat, sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights. Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, he thinks too much; such men are dangerous."
  • Ashland says "let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings", a quote from Shakespeare's Richard II.
  • CJ and Pierce sing "American Pie."
  • President Bartlet has nominated three Supreme Court justices, Roberto Mendoza in "The Short List" from the first season, and Christopher Mulready and Evelyn Baker Lang in this episode. [1]
  • The President introduces Lang as "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court".  Since 1866, the correct title is "Chief Justice of the United States".


Charlie Young: Hang on, I've got to write this down.
Josh Lyman: I love her. I love her mind. I love her shoes.
E Bradford Shelton: I don't position myself on issues. And I don't know what I think about a case until I hear it. There are moderates who are called that because they're not activists. And there are moderates that are called that because sometimes they wind up on the left and sometimes on the right. My allegiance to the eccentricities of a case will reliably outweigh my allegiance to any position you might wish I held.
Christopher Mulready: Who writes the extraordinary dissent? The one-man minority opinion whose time hasn't come, but 20 years later some circuit court clerk digs it up at 3 in the morning. Brennan rallying against censorship, Harlan's jeremiad on Jim Crow.



Special Guest Stars[]

Guest Starring[]



"The West Wing" The Supremes (2004)
The West Wing : The Supremes