The Approval Process of Supreme Court Justice

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The modern world is characterized by rapid transformations in political, economic, social, and cultural spheres which shape the struggles of values between Democrats and Republicans. Liberal tendencies continuously put pressure on traditional values. Such dynamics in social shifts could be reflected in actions made by the three branches of government. The Supreme Court and its decisions in the contemporary atmosphere could change the course of social development in the United States. The Supreme Court Justices and their views on particular issues such as abortion, gay marriages, or guns are essential for both Republicans and Democrats, as well as for the president’s decision to nominate a particular judge.

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That’s why the majority of justices with Republican or Democratic views in the Supreme Court wield such transformative power and potential. The appointment and approval process of a Supreme Court Justice is a cornerstone of such changes for American society.

The main issues regarding the approval process are politicization, the lifetime appointment of judges, and filibuster. The first three articles of the Constitution establish and define the three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. The US Constitution requires the involvement of all three branches of government in the appointment and approval process. Under Article II of the Constitution, the President has the power to nominate judges to the Supreme Court (Article II). Article III empowers the Supreme and inferior courts with judicial power and provides judges lifetime appointments for good behavior (“Article III”). The approval process goes as follows: after a judge’s death or retirement, the President nominates a judge. The judge must then be approved by the US Senate. First, a judge must go through a confirmation hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and if approved by a majority, there is a final vote on that decision by one hundred senators (Morrison, 2018). The politicization of the process means that politicians are mostly oriented on the particular views of the candidates, trying to push those who have impacted their policy as well as manipulate the process. One of the methods of such manipulation is the filibuster which is used to delay the process for the purpose of eliminating the candidate. Lifetime appointments are also problematic because not all presidents have the opportunity to nominate a judge.

During the history of the US, the approval process has undergone several significant changes. The Founding Fathers paid minimal attention to the judiciary, which explains why “Article III of the Constitution says nothing about the qualifications of judges, or about the mechanics of choice” (Commager, 1970). This circumstance impacted the interpretation of the Constitution and the development of the procedure. Over time, the process became more formalized; the Committee of the Judiciary was established, and the Calendar Call and roll call votes were implemented. Furthermore, the Senate handled procedures and considerations on a case-by-case basis (Beth & Palmer, 2011). However, a pivotal change occurred in 2013 when Democrats pushed a vote 52-48, a move known as the “nuclear option,” intended to prevent the filibuster. The amended rules for the voting process no longer required sixty Senate votes, but a simple majority of fifty-one (Timm, 2018). Although Democrats justified this decision by invoking the efficient functioning of the process, it was convenient that they held the majority in the Senate at the time. Throughout history, both parties have frequently utilized a filibuster.

The Founding Fathers established the values of freedom and a system of law for the efficient functioning of the government and the development of American society. The vague concepts of the Constitution and its interpretations allowed for adjustments according to the needs of the era. The evolution of the approval procedure shows that politicians often compromised basic values for political gain. To counter this, certain measures should be implemented. Firstly, given the importance of the Supreme Court and the weight of its decisions, the lifetime appointment is unfair to the president and the American people. According to Michael Livermore and Daniel Rockmore, “Justices’ terms could be fixed at some set limit; for example, it would be possible to stagger appointments to turn over one Justice every six months, resulting in four-and-a-half-year terms” (Livermore & Rockmore, 2017). Secondly, clear rules for nominees must be established. Depoliticization could help to avoid manipulations by politicians and concentrate on efficiency.

Legal professionals should inform the public about significant issues, especially at such high levels, to advance this agenda. The Supreme Court is the institution which provides citizens with protection, including ensuring the government and authorities act correctly. Conversely, the approval process is inefficient and rife with problems. Nowadays, tension surrounds the Supreme Court due to the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh. This is the ideal time to advocate for potential solutions to the problems of the Supreme Court Justice approval process. According to Livermore and Rockmore, “Congress has the latitude to make certain reforms via statute, while others may require a constitutional amendment” (Livermore & Rockmore, 2017). Hence, solutions could be implemented through public awareness, pressure on the government from organizations and media, and legal instruments.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court Justice approval process is plagued by major issues such as the lifetime appointment, filibuster, politicization of the process, and formal procedures and requirements for the judges. Considering the history of manipulation and interpretation of the process and Constitution for political gain, the approval process must be systematically examined and implemented by political authorities.


Beth, Richard S., and Betsy Palmer. Supreme Court Nominations: Senate Floor Procedure and Practice, 1789-2011. Congressional Research Service, April 11, 2011.

Commager, Henry Steele. Choosing Supreme Court Judges. The New Republic. May 02, 1970.

Livermore, Michael, and Daniel Rockmore. Changes to the Appointment Process Could Fix the Supreme Court. USAPP. May 24, 2017.

Morrison, Caren. Four Steps to Appointing a Supreme Court Justice. The Conversation. September 26, 2018.

The 2nd Article of the U.S. Constitution. National Constitution Center

The 3rd Article of the U.S. Constitution. National Constitution Center

Timm, Jane C. McConnell Went ‘nuclear’ to Confirm Gorsuch. But Democrats Changed Senate Filibuster Rules First. 2018.

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The Approval Process Of Supreme Court Justice. (2019, Jan 02). Retrieved from