United States Supreme Court Vacancy: A Timeline
By Mary Harned
President Obama is projected to announce his nomination to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the United States Supreme Court next week. After the announcement, the confirmation process is expected to move quickly, because President Obama wants the new justice confirmed before the Senate’s August recess. Below is a likely timeline of the confirmation process.
Entire process: 50 to 92 days (based on the confirmation process for Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Roberts, Alito, and Sotomayor). If the nominee is announced on Monday, May 10th, the Senate will have 90 days to confirm before the August recess.
I. Announcement of Nominee: Week of May 10-14
II. Nominee receives hearing preparation by President Obama’s staff; Nominee meets with individual Senators on Capitol Hill; The Senate Judiciary Committee conducts thorough research into the Nominee’s background: Approximately 36 to 70 days (based on the confirmation process for Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Roberts, Alito, and Sotomayor). The length of this time period largely depends on the following factors:
A. Whether any controversy surrounds the nominee (i.e., judicial philosophy, judicial opinions authored or joined, previous speeches and statements);
B. The length of the nominee’s “paper trail” that must be examined by the Committee (this is affected by length of time served on another court, number of speeches and publications written, and other documentation);
C. Whether the nominee has had a recent confirmation hearing for another position (if s/he has, the time period should be shorter);
D. The Senate calendar. The Senate is currently scheduled to recess from July 5th-9th and again from August 9th-September 10th.
An average of this time period for the five most recently confirmed justices is 72 days.It was 48 days for Justice Sotomayor.
We estimate that this time period will be 49 days, as explained below.
III. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: Begins 36 to 70 days after announcement, and lasts approximately one week.
We estimate that the hearing will begin on June 28, 2010 (day 49), one week before the July 4th recess, to ensure that there is sufficient time for Senate Floor consideration before the August recess.
IV. Senate Judiciary Committee votes on nominee during weekly business meeting: One to two weeks after hearing ends.
We estimate that this vote will happen on Thursday, July 22, 2010 (two weeks after the July 4th recess).
V. Full Senate considers confirmation: Shortly after approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee (the Senate Judiciary Committee usually conducts business meetings on Thursday mornings, so the earliest the full Senate would likely consider the nomination would be the following Monday).
We estimate that full Senate consideration will begin on Monday, July 26, 2010.
VI. Full Senate votes on confirmation: One to two weeks after Floor consideration begins.
We estimate that the vote on confirmation will occur during the week of August 2-6, 2010.