On September 18th, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer. She had held the position on the bench for twenty-seven years. Eight days later, President Trump announced his Supreme Court nomination to replace Ginsburg. Thirty days after that, Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court justice. Speedy? Sure. But despite the average sixty-seven days that it’s taken other presidents to get their nominees through the selection, hearing, and confirmation process, it’s not unprecedented for presidents to rush through a nomination. What has been unprecedented is that the confirmation took place only weeks before a presidential election. A historical moment? Absolutely. What are some other interesting facts about the Supreme Court and past nominees? Check it out!
1. Since the Supreme Court was established in 1789, there have been 164 nominations submitted by sitting presidents. Of the 164 nominations, only 127 were confirmed and seven actually declined to serve. Can you imagine that? Seven people said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to a position on the Supreme Court!
2. In the history of the Supreme Court, seventeen nominees were confirmed unanimously.
3. Currently, there are nine justices who make up the Supreme Court, but that wasn’t always the case. In the Judiciary Act of 1789, the number of Supreme Court justices was set to six, one chief justice and five associate justices. In 1807, Congress changed this number to seven and then to nine in 1837. In 1863, the number of Supreme Court seats rose to ten, but in 1866 the Judicial Circuits Act was passed by Congress, which brought the number of seats back down to seven. Fast forward three years and Congress raises the number of seats back to nine.
4. If you’re wondering what kind of qualifications you’ll need to become a Supreme Court justice one day, you might be happy to know that there aren’t any specific qualifications like there are for becoming president of the United States.
5. The youngest person to ever serve on the Supreme Court was Joseph Story. He was thirty-two years old when he was confirmed. Story served on the court for thirty-three years. The oldest person? That would be Horace Lurton. He was sixty-five years old when he was confirmed and he served on the court for four years.
6. Unlike other leadership positions in the United States, Supreme Court justices hold their positions for life or when they decide to retire. That’s why William O. Douglas was able to serve for thirty-six years, seven months, and eight days—the longest serving Supreme Court justice. Talk about job stability, right?
7. The first woman to serve on the Supreme Court was Sandra Day O’Connor. She wasn’t appointed until 1981, nearly two hundred years after the court was established. Since her appointment, only three other women have served. With Barrett’s confirmation, a total of five female justices have served in the Supreme Court.
8. There’s only one Supreme Court justice who also served as president of the United States. William Howard Taft served as president of the United States from 1909 to 1913 and was later confirmed as Supreme Court justice in 1921 after being nominated by president Warren Harding.
9. On average, the Supreme Court is asked to review over seven thousand cases a year, but it only accepts 100-150 of them.
10. If you’re wondering how quickly a president needs to nominate a Supreme Court justice, there are actually no hard and fast rules. George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas a few days after Justice Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement, whereas Bill Clinton took over three months to replace Justice Byron White with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.