An Explainer: The U.S. Supreme Court Nomination Process

Supreme Court columns from bottom looking up. Text: “An Explainer: U.S. Supreme Court Nomination Process. RockTheVote.org”
  • Serves as the highest court in the Nation. It’s the last resort for those looking for justice.
  • Ensures that each branch of government recognizes the limits of its own power
  • Protects civil rights and liberties by striking down laws that violate the Constitution
  • Sets appropriate limits on the government by ensuring that popular majorities cannot pass laws that harm and/or take undue advantage of unpopular minorities
Photo of the nine Supreme Court Justices after Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment; photo of Justice Ginsburg at her swearing in.
  1. The President nominates a candidate to the Supreme Court.
  2. The nomination is sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.
  3. The Committee collects records about the nominee from the FBI and other sources to prepare for the hearing. This process usually takes about a month.
  4. The Senate Judiciary Committee then holds a hearing on the nominee, during which:
    — Witnesses, supporting and opposing, present their views
    — Senators question the nominee on their qualifications, judgements & philosophy
  5. The Judiciary Committee votes on the nomination, sending its recommendation to the full Senate.
    — This recommendation will either be that the nominee should be confirmed or rejected. Alternatively, no recommendation may be given.
  6. The full Senate debates the nomination.
    — Debate can be blocked or halted by a vote of 51 (of 100) Senators. This is commonly known as “the nuclear option”
  7. The full Senate votes on the nomination once debate has ended or has been stopped.
    — A simple majority of Senators present and voting is required for a confirmation
    — If there is a tie, the Vice President casts the deciding vote.
Photo of President Obama and Merrick Garland walking outside the White House; photo of Merrick Garland.
Photo of hands with brown skin pinning a “2020” button onto a denim jacket. Text: RockTheVote.org

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