Defeated nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court

From Academic Kids

Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Sometimes, the President's choice for the court is rejected by the Senate, sometimes they withdraw under pressure, and sometimes the nominee declines the nomination. As of 2005, 148 people have been officially nominated to the US Supreme Court. The Senate has rejected twelve, taken no action on five and postponed votes on three. The President has withdrawn his nomination on six occasions. Seven others have declined the nomination.

Presidential administrations are listed with any defeated Supreme Court nominees.


George Washington administration

The nomination of John Rutledge as Chief Justice was rejected by a vote of 10-14. Rutledge's strident opposition to the Jay Treaty may have been the main reason for his rejection.

James Madison

When William Cushing left the bench, Madison nominated Levi Lincoln who declined the nomination, then Alexander Wolcott, whose nomination was rejected by a vote of 9-24, then John Quincy Adams, who declined, before Joseph Story was finally confirmed by the Senate.

John Tyler

The nomination of John C. Spencer was defeated by a vote of 21-26.

James K. Polk

James Polk nominated George W. Woodward to replace Henry Baldwin. The Senate rejected him by a vote of 20-29.

James Buchanan

Buchanan nominated Jeremiah S. Black to the court. The Senate voted 25-26 against confirming him.

Andrew Johnson

Two justices died in office during Johnson's administration. The United States Congress acted preemptively to deny Johnson any nominations to the court by passing the Judicial Circuits Act of 1866, which automatically reduced the size of the court whenever a vacancy occured. Congress restored the size of the court to 9 members once Johnson was out of office.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses Grant nominated Ebenezer R. Hoar to a new seat on the court. The Senate rejected this nomination by a vote of 24-33.

Grant also nominated Edwin M. Stanton, former Attorney General and Secretary of War to the court. The nomination was confirmed, but Stanton died before he was commissioned.

Grover Cleveland

In Grover Cleveland's second term, two nominees fell victim to the politics of his home state of New York. The nomination of William Hornblower from New York was rejected by the Senate by a vote of 24-30 on January 15, 1894. Cleveland's follow up nominee Wheeler H. Peckham, another New Yorker, was also rejected by the Senate, 32-41, on February 16, 1894. The rejection of these nominees was led by New York Senator David Hill. By the long tradition of Senatorial courtesy, other Senators deferred to the nominee's home state senator when evaluating his nomination. Cleveland finally got around Hill by nominating a sitting Senator, Edward Douglass White to the court. His nomination was approved.

Herbert Hoover

On May 7, 1930, John J. Parker's nomination for the Supreme Court was rejected by a vote of 39-41.

Lyndon Johnson

Johnson nominated Abe Fortas for Chief Justice. Fortas was, at the time, an associate justice. Controversy ensued regarding Fortas's extrajudicial activities, and at Fortas's request, Johnson withdrew the nomination prior to a vote of the full Senate. Earl Warren continued to act as Chief Justice through the 1968 election. After his inauguration, Nixon nominated Warren Burger, who was promptly confirmed.

When he nominated Fortas, he also nominated Homer Thornberry to fill Fortas' seat. Since Fortas withdrew his name from the Chief Justice position, but maintained his seat as an Associate Justice, the nomination of Thornberry was moot. He was never voted on by the Senate.

Richard Nixon

When Abe Fortas resigned in 1969, Nixon appointed Clement Haynsworth, a Southern jurist. His confirmation was rejected by the Senate by a vote of 45-55 on November 21, 1969.

In response, Nixon appointed G. Harold Carswell, a Southerner with a history of supporting segregation.The Senate rejected him 45 to 51 on April 8, 1970. Nixon finally appointed Harry Blackmun, who was confirmed.

Ronald Reagan

When Lewis Powell retired in July 1987, Reagan nominated Robert Bork. Bork was a member of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia at the time. Bork lost confirmation by a Senate vote of 42 to 58, largely because Bork had written about his views on many controversial constitutional issues. Because his position as a strict-constructionist and a conservative was well-known, many interest groups moved to block his nomination.

Reagan then nominated Douglas H. Ginsburg to the court. Ginsburg withdrew his nomination under heavy pressure after revealing that he had previously smoked marijuana. Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy, who was confirmed.



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