Appointment of justices

Appointment of Justices

  • The US President has the power to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court, which includes the Chief Justice. They hold office for a lifetime, unless they decide to retire, resign or are removed through impeachment.
  • The Constitution does not set forth any specific requirements for serving as a Justice, such as age, education, profession, or even nationality, making it unique compared to other high government posts.

Nomination and Confirmation

  • Typically, the President chooses a nominee with careful consideration of their legal philosophy, professional experience, and political ideology. This choice is often in line with the President’s own political leanings.
  • The nomination is then sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for evaluation. The Committee conducts investigations, as well as public hearings, during which the nominee is questioned.
  • Once the Judiciary Committee completes its review, it sends a recommendation to the full Senate. The Senate then debates and ultimately votes on the nominee. A simple majority is needed for confirmation.

Role of Political Factors

  • Ideology definitely plays a role in the appointment of justices. Presidents typically try to appoint justices who have similar ideological leanings, therefore having a long-term impact on American law and policy.
  • Public opinion and political climate can also impact the appointment. Historically, controversial nominations have often occurred during politically tense times.

Rejections and Controversies

  • The Senate has the power to reject a nominee – there have been 12 nominated individuals who have been rejected throughout history.
  • The nomination process can sometimes become very politically charged, particularly if there is a divide between the President’s party and the majority of the Senate.

Notable Appointments

  • Significant appointments include Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 by President Reagan, who was the first female Supreme Court justice, and Thurgood Marshall, appointed by President Johnson in 1967, who was the first African American justice. Their appointments marked pivotal moments in the history of the judiciary and society at large.
  • The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh by President Trump in 2018 sparked controversy due to sexual assault allegations dating back to Kavanaugh’s high school days. The controversy highlighted the extensive scrutiny nominees can undergo during the confirmation process.

Comparisons with the UK

  • In contrast to the US system, the appointment of justices in the UK is apolitical. The selection is made through an independent commission rather than political appointment, intending to maintain judicial independence and neutrality.