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Supreme Court Justices

Know The Nature and Role of The SC Justices

Know The Nature and Role of The SC Justices

The nature and role of Supreme Court Justices is left quite open by the relevant section of the Constitution, Article III, on the issue of “Judicial Powers”, as well as a brief reference to the existence of the office of Chief Supreme Court Justice in Article I. The rules and procedures of this office were addressed most early on in the first Congressional legislation, the Judiciary Act of 1789.
This Bill fixed the number of Supreme Court Justices, the structure in which they would operate and the responsibilities and powers which they would hold. Many of these rules would later be changed. In addition to formal legislative reform, the Supreme Court Justice role has also been changed and affected by the tasks taken on by specific members on the bench and by the requirements of the country as a whole.
The bench was originally comprised of six Supreme Court Justices, who were first officially convened on the first of February, 1790, in New York City. However, only by the next day would their full number assemble. At this point, Supreme Court Justices faced a substantial responsibility in addition to that of presiding over appellate courts, in the form of “circuit riding”, by which each Supreme Court Justice had the annual duty to personally preside over a pair of proceedings in each of the country’s districts. The Justices felt at this time that the obligation significantly and unnecessarily interfered with their main duties on the bench.
More general complaints were commonly aired by Supreme Court Justices in the institution’s first decade of existence as to the limited scope of the Court’s powers. This grievance began to subside with the beginning of the term of the fourth Chief Justice, John Marshall, in 1801. Under his tenure, the power of judicial review was first made available in practice to Supreme Court decisions, as established by his decision in the case of Marbury v. Madison.
The onerous circuit-riding requirement, however, was not removed until 1891. Another source for instability in the Court was the changing required numbers for Supreme Court Justices, which was eventually eased in 1869 with the decisive establishment of a nine-Justice membership.
Another important point for Supreme Court Justices in general of Marshall’s tenure as Chief Justice was the length of his term, which lasted for 34 years up until his death. As a supporting example of this principle, several of Marshall’s Associate Justices had terms lasting over twenty years.
According to Article III, a Supreme Court Justice can serve “during Good behavior”. Without any stipulation for resignation, this is generally assumed to mean life. It is difficult and generally unlikely for a Supreme Court Justice to be removed from the bench, a procedure which can only be realized through Congressional impeachment and in practice has only been fully attempted once, toward Samuel Chase in 1805 with a conclusion of acquittal. In the early 21st Century, the average service of a Supreme Court Justice has been found to be 15 years.

Current Membership of the Supreme Court

Current Membership of the Supreme Court

In the
discussions that have been held of the various Supreme Courts found throughout
American history, one of the most pressing questions has been the current membership
of those bodies. Supreme Courts are grouped in historical terms by the identity
and duration of term of their various Chief Justices, but the backgrounds and
philosophies of the individual Associate Supreme Court Justices has also
exercised a decisive impact on American history.

At present,
the Supreme Court is being administered by
 Chief Justice John G. Roberts. One important aspect of Supreme Courts is their political
orientation, toward which end the current court is considered more conservative
than liberal, both due to Roberts’ views and the judicial leanings
 of a majority of the individual
Supreme Court Justices.

Roberts has been the Chief Justice since 2005, when he was
nominated by the George W. Bush administration and approved by Congress to
replace the previously sitting Chief Justice, William Rehnquist
 (1986-2005). In view of the recent start of his term, the Roberts
Court can be assumed to likely be in place for some time. The individual terms
of Supreme Court Justices are not decided by the informal determination of
Supreme Court “eras”, and are not unlikely to last through two Supreme
Courts.

In regard to the Supreme Courts
during which the sitting Supreme Court Justices began their service, most of
the members now on the bench began during Rehnquist’s term. They include: Antonin
Scalia (appointed in 1986), Anthony Kennedy (1988), Clarence Thomas (1991),
Ruth Bader Ginsberg (1993), and Stephen Breyer (1994). The Roberts court has
thus far seen two appointments: Samuel Alito in 2006 by the Bush White House,
and Sonia Sontamayor in 2009 by Barack Obama. The longest term of any of the
currently sitting Supreme Court Justices is that of John Paul Stevens, who
began in 1975 by appointment by President Gerald Ford under the Burger court
(1969-1986).

In addition to Roberts, the identification of the
current membership as conservative in comparison to previous Supreme Courts
rests on the consensus on Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. In contrast to
these Supreme Court Justices, Ginsburg, Breyer and Stevens have long been
identified with liberalism, while Sontamayor is generally thought of as a liberal,
though more in regard to past legal decisions and public statements than any
comprehensive pattern thus ascertained on the bench.

The
political identification of Justices, and thus, of Supreme Courts can differ in
practice from what might have been assumed by nominating presidents, in which
regard Justice Kennedy has been identified as conservative in nature but
sometimes inclined toward political decisions. The recently announced
retirement of Justice Stevens has raised a similar issue among commentators in
regard to President Obama’s proposed replacement of legal scholar Elena Kagan.

Kagan has
been identified in a broad sense with the Democratic, liberal consensus. Her
past decisions have also revealed a conservative streak. If approved,
Kagan, currently the United States Solicitor General, would be the
only member who has not previously been a judge.

What You Need To Know About Judicial Leanings

What You Need To Know About Judicial Leanings

As it is
enacted by the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the American judicial system
as a whole can be interpreted in theory as the least politicized section of Government
and the one most purely given over to procedural, essentially technical
questions rather than ideological and philosophical ones. A Federal judge
differs from members of Congress and the President in gaining his or her office
through appointment rather than election, and in that way is secured against
the shifting judgments of the electorate. Similarly, the right to a
 lifetime term enjoyed by members of the
Supreme Court assures that their influence over the judicial system can outlast
what are sometimes pictured as the essentially fickle currents of politics.

In practice, however, the
question of so-called judicial leanings of any given Federal judge have become
increasingly urgent questions over the course of American history. Today,
political and legal commentators commonly assign Supreme Court members a place
along a right-left political spectrum, and thus, assess their probable impact
on the judicial system.

In determining the ideological orientation of the Supreme Court as
it is currently formed, the views of the individual members of the bench will
be taken into account along with the ideology of the Chief Justice. While the
former question is commonly tracked in terms of a shifting balance of political
power, as one Federal judge retires or dies and is replaced by another, the
politics of a Chief Justice are often used to place an overall ideological
stamp on a period.

The leanings of the American
judicial system in the post-World War II period, for instance, were typified by
the readiness of the Warren
 (1953-1969)
and Burger
 (1969-1986) courts to use the
judicial system to accomplish liberal initiatives judged too contentious to
enact through legislation, including Federal action against racial segregation
and the availability of abortion. The Rehnquist
 (1986-2003) and Roberts (2003-present) courts, by
contrast, have been seen as more conservative in their judicial leanings and
linked to the general rightward shift some commentators believe has occurred in
American politics as a whole.

The specific nature of the duties required by the
judicial system means that the liberalism or conservatism of any given Federal
judge will likely operate differently than it would in the legislative or
executive branch. For all of the importance placed on the nomination or defeat
of candidates for Federal Justice on the Supreme Court, Democrats and
Republicans do not formally endorse their favored choice.

Though
theoretical questions arising from the American judicial system may carry
implications for the nation as a whole, they do not refer ultimately to the
desires of interest groups or other common sources for legislative action, but
rather to Constitutional interpretation. In this sense, the ideological split
in Supreme Court decisions, though present, has been generally observed to
occur with far less consistency than is the case in Congressional votes. The
question of the judicial leanings of a Federal judge in this sense can be a
more nuanced question than it is in regard to legislators.

Means of Appointment and Voting Process in Congress

Means of Appointment and Voting Process in Congress

The selection and approval of Supreme Court nominees is intended to provide for the oversight of the institution as a whole by the other main branches of the Federal Government. The President makes the initial nomination of possible replacement for vacancies in the Supreme Court as a whole or the office of the Chief Justice, after which procedures are provided for Congress to approve or reject the Supreme Court nominees.
Until fairly recently in American history, the process of appointing and voting in Supreme Court nominees was not considered an aspect of the Government’s operations likely to cause dissension, and as such, tended to occur quite quickly and without much supervision. The American scene of the preceding few decades, however, has seen an increasingly politicized atmosphere surrounding the Supreme Court and an increase in attention to the judicial leanings of Justices. As a result, the approval of Supreme Court nominees has become a far more closely monitored and difficult process.
The procedures for approving Supreme Court nominees is addressed in Article II of the Constitution, which gives the President the power to “appoint…judges of the Supreme Court” “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” People who have previously served in lower courts or have in some other way distinguished themselves for legal knowledge or skill generally constitute the pool from which Supreme Court nominees are picked. However, it might be noted, if only as a point of interest, that the Constitution does not require any kind of legal fluency for Supreme Court nominees beyond that which is found by the President.
The responsible functioning of the nomination system is instead provided for by the allocation of decisive power to the Senate. If the Senate provides its approval, the President’s next action is to draw up, sign, and place the Seal of the Department of Justice on a commission for the Supreme Court.
The means through which the Senate determines the acceptability of Supreme Court nominees has grown more rigorous over time. The modern American requirement for Supreme Court nominees to submit themselves to direct questioning by the Senate first appeared in 1925 and became established practice in 1955. These interviews are conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which receives Presidential proposals for Supreme Court nominees and makes the decision on whether to submit them to the Senate as a whole for a vote.
The legislative tactic of a filibuster is not generally used for committee procedures, but it can be used to prevent a conclusive vote by the Senate on the candidate. The Senate vote is the last point for blocking the approval of Supreme Court nominees. The means for rejection of Supreme Court nominees include rejection by vote, taking no action, postponement of vote, the nominee’s decision to decline the office, or the President’s withdrawal of a nomination. As an example of the last possibility, which is usually undertaken when it becomes clear that political currents stand entirely against a nominee, last occurred when President George W. Bush withdrew Harriet Miers, his personal counsel, from consideration for the Supreme Court.

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