When a Supreme Court justice retires, President Bartlet has a golden opportunity to impact the court's composition by nominating a favorite judge but when further study reveals the ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Congressman Peter Lillienfield
Justice Joseph Crouch
Judge Peyton Cabot Harrison III


When a Supreme Court justice retires, President Bartlet has a golden opportunity to impact the court's composition by nominating a favorite judge but when further study reveals the candidate's conflicting ideology, the President might change his mind and opt for another judge. In addition, a headline seeking congressman on the House Government Oversight Committee accuses the White House staff of substance abuse -- a dicey issue for one important member. Written by Jackson corneille

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Release Date:

24 November 1999 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ken Howard plays Judge Peyton Cabot Harrison III, a candidate for the nomination to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, who believes that there is no right to privacy contained in the constitution because it wasn't specifically enumerated. In 1776 (1972) he played Thomas Jefferson who later commented to James Madison (who was concerned that if specific rights were listed, others would be construed not to exist) that "[h]alf a loaf is better than no bread. If we cannot secure all of our rights, let us secure what we can." See more »


While grilling Judge Harrison in the Oval Office, Sam points out the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments all contain points of privacy in the Bill of Rights. Judge Harrison states that because the framers of the Constitution picked those specific points, they had no intention of including privacy as a right. Everyone seems to have forgotten the Ninth Amendment, which reads: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." See more »


President Josiah Bartlet: You know, I imagine the view from your largely unscrutinized place in history must be very different from mine. But I'd remind you, sir, that I have the following things to negotiate: an opposition Congress, special interests with power beyond belief, and a bitchy media.
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References Masterpiece Classic (1971) See more »


West Wing Main Title
Written by W.G. Snuffy Walden
Performed by Pete Anthony
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User Reviews

Law, politics and goldfish: three reasons to love this episode
21 September 2009 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

For those of us hoping constitutional interpretation of the law is a neutral, objective undertaking, it may be discouraging to realize there's a lot of politics in it. That's partly why judges often disagree with each other and write dissents; their politics are different. This episode, which is about President Bartlet's opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice, is aware of that. Bartlet's first choice for the job becomes less appealing when the White House learns this judge isn't committed to privacy rights. The retiring Supreme Court justice is a liberal and disappointed by Bartlet's moderate politics and his candidate.

Disagreement about whether Bartlet falls short of greatness, as the retiring justice argues, makes for good drama; the two men compare Bartlet to Harry Truman. The issue of privacy rights is good drama too since it deals with a fundamental freedom that is still hotly debated. And then there's Leo, who's a great character. We learn that in addition to alcoholism he may have once been hooked on drugs; the president and staff are still willing to support him, however. They should. Leo's a great man.

An amusing subplot has CJ getting a goldfish after a miscommunication. Because of this episode, I named one of my own pet goldfish CJ. CJ the fish didn't last long, I'm afraid. Altogether, this is yet another fine episode from The West Wing's first season.

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