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Advice and consent: confirming Supreme Court Justices.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation. It decides whether federal laws, state laws, and decisions made by lower courts are constitutional. Once confirmed, a Justice serves for life. That makes appointing and confirming Supreme Court Justices one of the most important duties of the President and the Senate.

Read about this process below, then answer the following questions.

According to Article II, Section Two, of the U.S. Constitution, the President of the United States has the power to appoint "Justices of the Supreme Court." The Constitution also requires "the Advice and Consent [approval] of the Senate." In practice, this means that the President nominates a candidate, who must be voted on by the Senate, which confirms (accepts) or rejects the nomination.

This basic process has been followed since the beginning of the country. Also since the beginning, it has involved fierce political battles. Even George Washington, as the nation's first President, faced controversy. In 1795, the Senate rejected his choice of John Rutledge for Chief Justice by a vote of 14-10.

Over the years, Senate rules and tradition have shaped the specifics of the Senate's voting process. Today, a President's nomination first goes to the 18-member Senate Judiciary Committee. This committee holds hearings, during which members question the nominee about his or her judicial philosophy. Then the committee votes whether or not to recommend approval by the full Senate. Next, the full Senate votes on the nomination--the vote that counts. Nominees must be approved by a majority of Senators.

A majority of votes does not guarantee a nominee's approval. Senators in the minority party sometimes use a delaying tactic called the filibuster. If a filibuster is successful, Senators can delay a vote until the President withdraws the nomination or the nominee gives up. In 1968, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block President Lyndon B. Johnson's nomination of Justice Abe Fortas as Chief Justice. The choice of Chief Justice fell to the following President, Richard Nixon. His nominee, Warren Burger, was confirmed in 1969.

Words to Know

constitutional: legal according to the Constitution of the United States * filibuster: a tactic used to delay votes in the Senate * nominate: name (choose) as a candidate.

QUESTIONS Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper.

1. What is the Supreme Court's function?

2. What is the President's role in the selection process for Supreme Court Justices?

3. What is the Senate's role in this process?

4. What group is first to vote on the nomination?

5. Does this vote decide if the nominee is approved?

6. If the President's party has a majority in the Senate, can the President still lose the nomination battle?

7. Where can you find the process for the confirmation of Justices written down?

8. Why would a President want to appoint as many Supreme Court Justices as possible?

9. Who was the first President to face a difficult nomination process?

10. Why do you think the Constitution makes Supreme Court Justice a lifetime term?

1. It rules on whether laws or lower-court rulings are constitutional.

2. The President nominates candidates to the Court.

3. The Senate votes whether or not to confirm the President's choice.

4. the Senate Judiciary Committee

5. No. The committee simply votes whether to recommend approval by the full Senate.

6. Yes. The filibuster is sometimes used by minority-party Senators to block nominations.

7. The process isn't written down in one place. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says what powers the President and the Congress have. But the specifics of the process are a result of years of Senate rules and tradition.

8. Presidents naturally want as many Justices as possible to agree with their interpretation on whether laws or rulings are constitutional.

9. George Washington

10. Answers will vary; the key point is that it protects Justices against being fired by a President who doesn't like their decisions.
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Title Annotation:SKILLS MASTER 1
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 19, 2005
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