Appointment of US Supreme Court Justices

23-05-2016

In February 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, vacating a position on America’s highest court. That quickly focused American political discussion, in the midst of a heated Presidential campaigning season, on his possible replacement. The appointment of Supreme Court Justices is broadly depicted in Article II of the US Constitution as a process in which the President chooses a candidate but the Senate provides its 'advice and consent' on the nominee. The Republican-controlled Senate argued that President Obama should leave the nomination process to the next US President. Obama, meanwhile, affirmed his intention to fulfil his constitutional duty, and indeed on 16 March he put forward a nominee. The debate reflects an appointment process that is to a certain extent a bargain between the executive and legislative branches, framed by Constitutional norms and political considerations. From a procedural point of view, the process can be divided into two stages, the initial nomination phase, for the executive, and the subsequent confirmation phase, dominated by the legislative. Although the President maintains considerable discretion in choosing a candidate, many issues are taken into consideration before he or she submits the formal nomination. Some factors include the nominee’s professional competence and political affiliation, and the overall balance of the nine-member court in terms of the geographic, socio-ethnic, or religious backgrounds of the justices. Once the nominee is formally submitted to the Senate, the Judiciary Committee vets the nominee and organises public hearings. The Committee scrutinises the nominee's background closely, asking them to provide extensive professional and personal records which may support or cast doubt on his or her ultimate confirmation. After recommendation by the Judiciary Committee, the full Senate debates and ultimately votes on the nominee's confirmation.

In February 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, vacating a position on America’s highest court. That quickly focused American political discussion, in the midst of a heated Presidential campaigning season, on his possible replacement. The appointment of Supreme Court Justices is broadly depicted in Article II of the US Constitution as a process in which the President chooses a candidate but the Senate provides its 'advice and consent' on the nominee. The Republican-controlled Senate argued that President Obama should leave the nomination process to the next US President. Obama, meanwhile, affirmed his intention to fulfil his constitutional duty, and indeed on 16 March he put forward a nominee. The debate reflects an appointment process that is to a certain extent a bargain between the executive and legislative branches, framed by Constitutional norms and political considerations. From a procedural point of view, the process can be divided into two stages, the initial nomination phase, for the executive, and the subsequent confirmation phase, dominated by the legislative. Although the President maintains considerable discretion in choosing a candidate, many issues are taken into consideration before he or she submits the formal nomination. Some factors include the nominee’s professional competence and political affiliation, and the overall balance of the nine-member court in terms of the geographic, socio-ethnic, or religious backgrounds of the justices. Once the nominee is formally submitted to the Senate, the Judiciary Committee vets the nominee and organises public hearings. The Committee scrutinises the nominee's background closely, asking them to provide extensive professional and personal records which may support or cast doubt on his or her ultimate confirmation. After recommendation by the Judiciary Committee, the full Senate debates and ultimately votes on the nominee's confirmation.