Five Facts on Supreme Court Nominations

The Big InsightAs Supreme Court nominations have become more politicized, public trust in the Court has declined.

Here are five facts on Supreme Court Nominations.

1. All five of the new Supreme Court nominees who were confirmed between 1975 and 1990 received the votes of at least 90 senators.”

The exception was the rejected nomination of Robert Bork in 1987. Since 1990, only one of 10 nominees — Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993 — has received at least 90 votes, and five justices were confirmed with fewer than 60 votes.

2. The first time the Senate Judiciary Committee required a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee, the hearing lasted just three hours.

In 1957, nominee William J. Brennan Jr. appeared before the committee for a brief hearing, and hearings for the next three nominees took between just six and seven hours. Since 1993, no successful nominee has appeared before the committee for less than 20 hours, and in 2018, Brett Kavanaugh’s committee hearing took 48.

3. On average, it takes 68 days after being nominated by a president for a Supreme Court candidate to be confirmed.

Recent nominations have basically continued this trend, with five of the last six successful nominees confirmed 65 to 88 days after nomination. The outlier: Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed just 27 days after her 2020 nomination was announced.

4. There have been 41 Supreme Court justices who had not previously served as judges.

Though President Biden has said that his nominee will be a judge, more than one in three of the 115 individuals to serve on the Court were not. It has become very uncommon for presidents to nominate candidates without bench experience. Elena Kagan, the former U.S. solicitor general, is the only current justice to have not served previously as a judge.

5. Just 40% of Americans approve of the performance of the Supreme Court, with 53% disapproving.

This finding from a September 2021 Gallup poll is in stark contrast with the 51% approve/39% disapprove split 10 years earlier, and the 62% approve/29% disapprove split in 2001.

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