Supreme Court Justices: The Death Of Antonin Scalia Leaves Vacancy, What Is The Process For Appointing A New Supreme Court Judge?

The Supreme Court, and the country, were shocked when earlier today it was announced that Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia had passed away in his sleep. Scalia was 79 years old. With the untimely passing of Scalia, the Supreme Court now has eight judges currently serving on the bench. A vacancy in the court must now be filled.

What is the process of appointing a new judge to the Supreme Court?

The process for appointing a new judge to the highest court in the United States is laid out in the Constitution. The president is the only person who has the power to appoint to the court, according to Article II Section 2 of the U.S. constitution.

“He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate……..he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court.”

Once the president has selected a person to fill the vacant spot in the court, the person must then be confirmed by the Senate. The candidate selected by the president will go through an interview process in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The members of the committee will be trying to determine if the candidate meets the standard set by previous judges who were confirmed to the Supreme Court. The members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will then vote on the candidate. If a majority of the committee members feel the person meets the qualifications of a Supreme Court judge, the candidate will then be voted on by the entire Senate. In order to be confirmed by the Senate, 51 Senators must vote to approve the candidate to the Supreme Court.

Historically, Supreme Court appointments have had little opposition in the Senate. Experts are already speculating that a battle to confirm the next Supreme Court judge will take place in Washington.

Why Will The Process Be A Battle?

The United States is currently in the middle of a hard-fought process to elect the next president of the United States. Some political experts are saying that this election could be the most important one in recent history. Since the power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court lie in the hands of the president, some are saying that President Obama should not appoint anyone since a new president will be taking over in less than a year. A Supreme Court judge is appointed to the court for life or until the judge decides to retire.

Republicans are saying that President Obama should not appoint a new judge that will serve for the next couple of decades since he is leaving office soon. Since Scalia was a conservative judge on the court, the fear is that President Obama will appoint a judge that is considered a liberal, tipping the scale of the court to the left.


Democrats are arguing that President Obama has every right to nominate a new judge to the court since he is still the president of the United States. President Obama maintains the powers granted to him by the Constitution right up until the new president is sworn in.

President Obama has already gone on the record in stating that he has every intention of appointing a new judge to the Supreme Court. Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, and they will be the ones to either approve the new judge or attempt to stall the process until a new president takes office.

What do you think will happen in Washington during the appointment process for a new Supreme Court Justice?

[Image Via AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File]