A history of the Supreme Court

If it is apparent that a nominee will win the Senate vote, there are still two other ways in which opponents can block confirmation. Opponents can filibuster the nomination, but rarely do so because of the negative political fallout. Secondly, a member can ask their party leader to put a hold on the issue for almost any conceivable reason. This method originated as a courtesy rather than a constitutionally-supported rule. Though not originally designed as a tool for obstructionism, it has been used as such in recent decades.

Contrary to the assumption that today’s confirmation process is more contentious than in the past; thirty-six percent of nominees were rejected during the 1800s (Yoffe, 2001). Today it is rare for a justice not to be confirmed even though debate can be hard-fought and lengthy. The last nominee to be rejected was Robert Bork in 1987. More recently, Bush nominee Harriet Miers was forced to withdraw her name from consideration before the Senate took up her confirmation process. In this day and age it is assumed that the nomination and confirmation process will take months to complete.

This is a change from past centuries. In 1922 Justice John Hessin Clarke resigned his position. President Warren G. Harding nominated Sen. George Sutherland to replace Clarke. Sutherland was confirmed by the Senate in only 1 day. For nominees the process of getting confirmed can be onerous. Nominees have to subject themselves to a variety of background checks, which require the filling out of thousands of pages of federal forms. Then, it is expected that the nominee will present his/her self before a Senate committee for questioning.

Since these hearings are now televised, Senators often use the opportunity to grill the nominee with embarrassing, and sometimes irrelevant questions. Instead of investigating nominee qualifications, Senators often try to “box in” the nominee to certain positions on certain issues. The reality is that the cases the new justice will hear are complex and distinct from each other. Knowing this, the nominee is often forced to decline answers on certain questions. The nominee is not required by the Constitution to stand before the Senate for questioning.

It has become a well-established tradition that he or she do so however. Refusal to do so is not a viable option in today’s political climate. Conclusion Supreme Court Justices are among the most important figures in American history. Their position provides a tremendous amount of power and responsibility in shaping the American experiment for years to come. The process of selecting these Justices is not perfect but it has stood the test of time. The ability of the nominee to wade through the selection, nomination and confirmation processes is a qualification in and of itself.

Despite the political factors that inevitably come into play in the nomination process, most justices have shown the unique ability to separate politics and law, ultimately giving each its due. Sources Georgetown University Law Library. (2008). “Executive Nomination Process - A Research Guide. ” Accessed 4/2/2009 from: http://www. ll. georgetown. edu/guides/supreme_court_nominations. cfm. Schwartz, Bernard. (1993). A history of the Supreme Court. New York : Oxford University Press. Yoffe, Emily. (2001). “Senate Confirmation FAQ. ” Slate. Accessed 4/2/2009 from: