As the nation waits to see how Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process will proceed, we turn to Thomson Reuters Westlaw for historical perspective on US Supreme Court nominees.

Though rejections are rare, Presidential appointees to the Supreme Court have not always received the Senate’s consent, according to Benjamin Pomerance’s Albany Law Review article, Justices Denied: The Peculiar History of Reject United States Supreme Court Nominees.

Pomerance’s research revealed the Senate has voted to reject 12 Presidential appointees to the Supreme Court. Two Presidents – Richard Nixon and Grover Cleveland – share the distinction of having two of their nominees rejected by the Senate.

Below are the rejected nominees, followed by the President who appointed them, beginning with the most recent:


  1. Robert Bork (Ronald Reagan)
  2. George Harrold Carswell (Richard Nixon)
  3. Clement Haynsworth (Richard Nixon)
  4. John Parker (Herbert Hoover)
  5. Wheeler Peckham (Grover Cleveland)
  6. William Hornblower (Grover Cleveland)
  7. Ebenezer Hoar (Ulysses S. Grant)
  8. Jeremiah Black (James Buchanan)
  9. George Washington Woodward (James Knox Polk)
  10. John Spencer (John Tyler)
  11. Alexander Wolcott (James Madison)
  12. John Rutledge (George Washington)

Beyond the rejected nominees, the Senate took no action on 10 nominees including, most recently, Merrick Garland.

The Senate also postponed a vote on three additional nominees, according to Pomerance’s research.

An additional 12 nominees withdrew their nomination before the Senate could vote on them, including Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. Although he “withdrew from the nomination to replace Sandra Day O’Connor because William Rehnquist passed away,” he was, of course, nominated again and subsequently confirmed.

Go to Westlaw for the full article, which includes trends and patterns surrounding the rejected nominees, and what they may indicate about the likelihood of confirmation success for current and future nominees.


Please follow and like us:
Pin Share