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Supreme Court Judgeship Appointment Process

Process of Supreme Court’s justice appointment

The process of appointing and confirming a Supreme Court justice comprises two main steps namely nomination by the President and confirmation by Senate. The President is mandated by the American constitution to appoint judges to serve in the Supreme Court. He appoints the judges based on the advice and consent of the Senate. After Supreme Court Justices are appointed, their tenure in office lasts as long as they are alive and in good mental and physical condition to execute their duties.

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Therefore, their influence and decisions are critical to the lives of Americans and the proper running of the government. The President mainly nominates individuals who share his party’s ideologies regarding the efficacy of party policies. Usually, he nominates individuals based on their educational qualifications, political affiliation, and loyalty to their party. This happens because the constitution does not define a specific criterion for the nomination of justices.

After nomination, individuals are subjected to intense grilling before confirmation by the Senate. A nominee’s confirmation depends on the Senate’s review and interpretation of their suitability for the job. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds several hearings that explore the nominees’ capabilities concerning the proper execution of their duties. After such hearings, the Committee decides whether the nominee should be rejected or forwarded to the Senate for a final vote.

The Committee writes a report to the Senate regarding the nominees’ suitability based on interviews conducted. During the voting process, a simple majority vote confirms or rejects a nominee after extensive discussions and debates. Rejection of nominees is very rare with only 12 rejections in the history of the Senate. After nomination, the President can revoke an individual before the Senate votes to either reject or accept the nomination.

Number of justices serving in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has a total of nine justices. The President depends on advice from several sources in making appointments. He takes advice from the Department of Justice, members of Congress, serving justices and judges, the American Bar Association, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The senatorial courtesy refers to a tradition that has been used for a long time in the nomination of justices. According to the tradition, senators from the state that has a vacant seat usually decide the justice to be nominated. After a justice becomes vacant, a senator from the state where the vacancy occurs sends a nomination suggestion to the President.

In many cases, the President accepts the nomination to avoid potential conflicts with the Senate. This tradition has been observed for many decades. Political loyalty and affiliation are two of the main factors that influence such nomination decisions.

Current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

The current Chief Justice of the United States is known as John Glover Roberts. He is the 17th Chief Justice and has been in office since 2005 when President George W. Bush nominated him. His appointment came after the demise of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Before his appointment, Roberts was awaiting confirmation after he was nominated as an Associate Justice. He had earlier served in the governments of George Bush and Ronald Reagan. As mentioned earlier, for an individual to become a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, they must first receive a nomination from the President followed by a confirmation by the senate.

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The confirmation must involve at least half of the entire Senate’s votes. During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, five members voted against Roberts’ nomination. They include Charles Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, and Richard Durbin. Despite their dissenting votes, Roberts’ nomination proceeded to the Senate for final voting. All Republicans voted in his favor and he was confirmed as the new Chief Justice. He took the oath of office under John Paul Stevens and the judicial oath administered under the provisions of the Judiciary Act of 1978. During his confirmation, Roberts was the youngest member of the Supreme Court. Many justices have described him as conservative due to his preference for traditional methods of interpreting the constitution.

Names and appointment dates of the justices

Currently, the Supreme Court has 9 serving justices. Initially, the Supreme Court was established with six members. In 1807, the number was increased to 7 by the Tenth Circuit Act. Consequently, the number was increased to nine following the recommendations of the Seventh and Ninth Circuits Acts. In 1866, one seat was eliminated by the Judicial Circuits Act. However, this did not happen. Later, an additional seat was created to bring the number to nine. These include the Chief Justice and 8 associate justices.

Current justices include Antonin Scalia (appointed in 1986), Anthony Kennedy (appointed in 1988), Clarence Thomas (appointed in 1991), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (appointed in 1993), Stephen Breyer (appointed in 1994), Samuel Alito (appointed in 2006), Sonia Sotomayor (appointed in 2009), and Elena Kagan (appointed in 2010). Elena Kagan is the most recent member to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Antonin Scalia is the longest-serving justice with 28 years of service. The terms of many justices end after their death or retirement from office.

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