How Is A New Supreme Court Justice Appointed?

( Supreme Court Justices are the judges who sit on the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. While there is no set number of justices outlined in the Constitution, the number has been kept at 9 for several decades.

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg long argued that nine is a good number, and it has been convention to keep it that way. Upon the death of Justice Ginsburg, however, President Donald Trump appointed Catholic Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the court, prompting Democrats to discuss the possibility of increasing the number of justices in the future.

The issue prompted a huge discussion about the Supreme Court, namely how new justices are appointed.

When Is A Justice Nominated?

The President of the United States nominates Supreme Court Justices, as outlined in the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 says that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…Judges of the Supreme Court.”

A justice is nominated typically in the event that there is a vacancy on the court. This might include the death of a sitting justice or the retirement or resignation of a sitting justice.

Who Gets Nominated?

While there are no specific guidelines for who should be nominated, it is generally expected that a Supreme Court justice nominee should be a professional in their field, and be widely considered to be an excellent judge. Most nominees, therefore, have already served as appellate court judges and have a reputation for impartiality, honesty, and integrity.

Anybody with a track record that suggests they will be able to impartially interpret the Constitution will be a good candidate for the court, but that depends on the president, and whether the party the president represents is more interested in passing partisan legislation. In the case of the Democrats after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and their opposition to the legitimate nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, politics is likely to have come into play.

How is a Justice Confirmed?

It is the duty of the Senate to approve a Supreme Court Justice nominee. Before the Senate votes on the nominee, hearings typically take place.

This is an opportunity for Senators to talk to the nominee and ask questions. The hearings are usually a big political event and widely reported, as the life, background, and history of the justice will be scrutinized in great detail.

Once the hearings are complete, the Judiciary Committee will vote on the nomination and then send a recommendation to the Senate. Then, debates take place within the Senate. In 2017, the rules were changed to allow a 51 majority vote in the Senate to end unlimited debate (filibustering), which is known as the “nuclear option.” That means a vote of 60 or more senators is no longer required to end filibustering and move to a vote on nomination.

Once the nomination vote occurs, the nominated judge needs a simple majority to move on to being confirmed.