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- The Word On -

The Supreme Court Nominations

July 22, 2009
Dysart Reporter


Senator Charles Grassley

Q: What's the process to become a Supreme Court Justice?

A: The nomination and confirmation of a person to the Supreme Court is one of the most important responsibilities of a president and the United States Senate. The lifetime appointments must be made with care, concern and caution. After a president nominates an individual, the Senate then carries through with its constitutional role of "advice and consent." The Senate first holds a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Members of the committee question the nominee about his or her qualifications, judicial philosophy, and past cases they may have presided over to determine if the nominee has the intellectual ability, legal expertise, judicial philosophy, and judicial temperament required of those who sit on the Supreme Court. After the hearing concludes, the committee examines the record and votes on the nomination. If approved by the committee, the nomination is then considered by the full Senate. Judicial nominees are not considered by the House of Representatives. Once confirmed by the Senate, the nominee is sworn in by the president to be a justice on the Supreme Court. From the first appointments in 1789, the Senate has confirmed 122 out of 158 Court nominations. Of the 36 unsuccessful nominations, 11 were rejected in Senate roll-call votes, while nearly all of the rest, in the face of committee or Senate opposition to the nominee or the President, were withdrawn by the President or were postponed, tabled, or never voted on by the Senate.

Q: What was your role in the recent Judge Sotomayor confirmation process?

A: As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I've had the opportunity to participate in 12 Supreme Court nomination hearings, including those of all current justices except Justice Stevens. This summer, I questioned Judge Sonia Sotomayor during three rounds of questioning. Her answers to my questions, as well as the questions of my colleagues, help provide a better picture of what sort of justice she might be on the Supreme Court and whether she understands the proper role of a judge in society. We're looking for somebody who will interpret the law and the Constitution, not somebody who will pursue personal and political agendas from the bench. In the end, I expect Supreme Court Justices to hear cases just as Lady Justice would, wearing a blindfold, so she can administer, without bias or prejudice, equal justice for all.



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