10 Things You Didn't Know About Confirmation to the Supreme Court

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.

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1. Since the establishment of the Supreme Court in 1789, presidents have submitted 159 nominations for the court. Of that, 122 nominations were confirmed.

2. A total of 12 Supreme Court nominees have been rejected by the Senate.

3. In 1795, during George Washington's administration, John Rutledge became the first U.S. Supreme Court nominee rejected by the Senate. He was also the only "recess-appointed" justice not to be subsequently confirmed.

4. President Lyndon Johnson's 1968 nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas to be chief justice sparked the first filibuster in Senate history on a Supreme Court nomination. Johnson withdrew the nomination.

5. The Senate cloture motion, which allows a supermajority to limit debate on a matter and possibly avoid a filibuster, has been sought on only three Supreme Court nominations. Only one cloture has been successful: It came in 1986, when William H. Rehnquist was confirmed as chief justice.

6. George Washington had a record 14 nominations to the Supreme Court. Twelve were confirmed.

7. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated the first Jew, Louis Brandeis, to the Supreme Court. After a heated four-month debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed his nomination, 47 to 22.

8. In 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American justice. President Ronald Reagan nominated the first woman, Sandra Day O'Connor, to the Supreme Court in 1981.

9. In the nation's history, presidents have made temporary recess appointments 12 times without submitting nominations to the Senate.

10. In 1925, Harlan Stone became the first Supreme Court nominee to appear and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. After Stone testified for five hours, his nomination was confirmed. Prior to Stone's confirmation, justices were often reviewed by the Senate in executive sessions and without a record being made of the deliberations.


U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. Senate Historical Office
Congressional Research Service