A Little History Lesson for the GOP

Matthew A. McIntosh

So we have some saying nominating and appointing a Supreme Court Justice in an election year is either unprecedented or somehow so unusual as to simply require it wait.  Is it, now?  Let’s see about that.

1796 – Samuel Chase:


Election year with John Adams v. Thomas Jefferson (see below for details).  On January 26, 1796, Chase was nominated by President Washington and approved as an associate justice on the Supreme Court.

1796 – Oliver Ellsworth:  


Election year with John Adams v. Thomas Jefferson.  Adams won this election and, under the rules of the time, Jefferson became Vice President.  The election was held November 4-7, 1796.  Earlier that year, on March 3, 1796, Preesident Washington nominated Oliver Ellsworth for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the seat recently vacated by John Jay.  Ellsworth was unanimously confirmed the following day, March 5, 1796.

1804 – William Johnson:


Election year with Thomas Jefferson v. Charles C. Pinckney.  Jefferson won this election.  Earlier that year, on March 22, 1804, Jefferson nominated William Johnson to succeed Alfred Moore as an associate justice on the Supreme Court.  He was confirmed by the Senate on May 7, 1804.

1836 – Philip Pendleton Barbour:


Election year with Martin Van Buren v. William H. Harrison and Hugh L. White.  Van Buren won the election.  President Jackson was at the end of his term and nominated Barbour to fill a vacancy left by Justice Gabriel Duvall.  The Senate approved his appointment by a vote of 30-11 on May 7, 1836.

1836 – Roger Taney

Same election year as above with Barbour, only this one to fill yet another vacancy left by Chief Justice John Marshall.  Appointed by Jackson in his final term, Taney was confirmed on March 15, 1836.

1888 – Melville Fuller:


Election year with Benjamin Harrison v. Grover Cleveland (incumbent).  Cleveland, in the last year of his term, nominated Fuller on April 30, 1888 to replace Chief Justice Morrion R. Waite.  By a vote of 41-20, Fuller was confirmed on July 20, 1888.

1888 – Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar I:


Nominated also by President Cleveland, Lamar was confirmed on January 16, 1888 in the same election year as above.

1892 – George Shiras:


Election year with Grover Cleveland v. Benjamin Harrison (incumbent) and James B. Weaver.  In the last year of his term, Harrison nominated Shiras to fill a seat vacated by Joseph P. Bradley.  Shiras was nominated on July 19, 1892 and confirmed by the Senate on July 26.

1912 – Mahlon Pitney:


Election year with William Howard Taft (incumbent) v. Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Eugene V. Debs.  Wilson would win this election.  In the last year of his term, Taft nominated Pitney, who was confirmed by a vote of 50-26 on March 13, 1912.

1916 – John Clarke:


Election year with Woodrow Wilson v. Charles E. Hughes.  Wilson would win, and he nominated Clarke to fill the seat vacated by his current opponent, Hughes.  Clarke was confirmed on July 21, 1914.

1916 – Louis Brandeis:


As above, Wilson also nominated Brandeis that same year to fill another vacancy.  He was confirmed by a vote of 47-22 on June 1, 1916.

1932 – Benjamin Cardozo:


Election year with Herbert Hoover (incumbent) v. Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Hoover would lose.  In his final year, Hoover nominated Cardozo to replace the seat vacated by Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Cardozo was confirmed on March 1, 1932.

1940 – Frank Murphy:


Election year with Franklin D. Roosevelt (incumbent) v. Wendell Willkie.  Roosevelt would win.  Earlier that year, on January 4, 1940, Roosevelt nominated Murphy to fill the seat vacated by Pierce Butler.  He was confirmed on January 16.

1988 – Anthony Kennedy:

Official Photograph of Justice Anthony Kennedy

Election year with George H.w. Bush v. Michael Dukakis.  Bush would win.  In Reagan’s final year in office, Kenndy (nominated on November 30, 1987 to fill a seat vacated by Lewis F. Powell), was unanimously confirmed follow Robert Bork’s withdrawal from nomination and following confirmatoin was sworn in on February 18, 1988.