The Supreme Court Justice Selection Process

Image courtesy of the New York Times

This week, Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch was featured on many news channels while he underwent rigorous questioning.  The somewhat controversial candidate spent this past week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee as he attempted to complete the nomination process.  While it may seem confusing and complicated, the process for selecting a Supreme Court Justice is carefully designed to ensure that those given the position would be capable of upholding the Constitution.

The Supreme Court, or Judicial Branch of the federal government, serves a unique role in our country.  It is distinct from the other two branches primarily because of the concept of judicial review. While the legislative branch focuses on creating laws and the executive branch focuses on enforcing laws, the judicial branch focuses on determining whether or not those laws are constitutional.  Thus, Justices set out to create, not enforce, the laws of the country.  As such, Justices are intended to not be affiliated with any party to allow for the most unbiased interpretation possible.  However, Justices tend to have different philosophies on how the Constitution should be interpreted.

Therefore, the process for selecting a Supreme Court Justice involves both the Executive and Legislative Branches and not voters.  As stated in Article II of the Constitution, the President has the sole power to nominate an individual for the position.  He consults with White House staff to choose someone he thinks is qualified for the position.  The nominee then partakes in a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee.  In the hearing, the nominee gives testimony and answers questions posed by the members of the committee.  The committee then votes to put the nominee before the Senate floor, a vote that must be unanimous in order to move forward.   If the vote is reached, the nominee is placed before the entire Senate.  The Senate then votes whether or not to confirm the nominee, a vote which must be a majority.  If a majority is achieved, the nominee can be sworn into office.

Although it might seem like the process for picking the next Supreme Court Justice is chaotic or skewed to one party, it was carefully crafted to guarantee the contrary. It allows for input from both parties and selects individuals in a manner that promotes a balanced interpretation of the Constitution.

Brittany Gamlen is a junior majoring in political science. 


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