List of people nominated to U.S. Supreme Court in last year of presidency

Vacancies on the Supreme Court of the United States rarely arise during the last year of a presidency.[1][2][3] Following is a list of those people who were nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court during the last year of a president's last term. This list does not include presidents who never had an opportunity to serve what would have been their last year, due to resignation or death.

Political scientist Michael Nelson wrote in 2012 that the U.S. Senate is less likely to approve Supreme Court nominations that are submitted during the final year of a presidency.[4] This type of situation received considerable public attention in 2016 with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the resulting Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination.[5][6]

Law professors Jason Mazzone and Robin Kar published a study in 2016 in which they wrote that a detailed analysis of Senate history does not support a deliberate inter-presidential transfer of nominating power from one president to the next. In their view, an actual vacancy ought to be viewed differently from a vacancy that is announced in advance but never actually vacated ("NV"); an elected president who makes a nomination ought to be viewed differently from a president-by-succession ("S"); and, a nomination made post-election-of-successor ("PE") should be distinguished from a nomination made earlier.[7][8]

Possible results[]

There are several possible results of a Supreme Court nomination:


President Nomination
President Last day of
last term
Party Nominee Senate
to Senate
Result Date of
J. Adams Mar. 4, 1801 Fed John Jay Fed Dec. 18, 1800 declined Dec. 19, 1800 PE[7][10]
John Marshall Jan. 20, 1801 confirmed Jan. 27, 1801 PE[7][10]
J. Q. Adams Mar. 4, 1829 D-R John J. Crittenden D-R Dec. 17, 1828 postponed Feb. 12, 1829 PE[3][7][10]
Jackson Mar. 4, 1837 Dem William Smith Dem Mar. 3, 1837 declined Mar. 8, 1837 PE[7][10]
John Catron Mar. 3, 1837 confirmed Mar. 8, 1837 PE[7][10]
Van Buren Mar. 4, 1841 Dem Peter Vivian Daniel Dem Feb. 26, 1841 confirmed Mar. 2, 1841 [10]
Tyler Mar. 4, 1845 None Reuben Walworth Whig Mar. 13, 1844 withdrawn June 17, 1844 S[7][10]
Edward King June 5, 1844 postponed June 15, 1844 S[7][10]
John C. Spencer June 17, 1844 withdrawn June 17, 1844 S[7][10]
Reuben Walworth June 17, 1844 no action June 17, 1844 S[7][10]
Edward King Dec. 4, 1844 withdrawn Feb. 7, 1845 S;PE[7][10]
Reuben Walworth Dec. 4, 1844 withdrawn Feb. 4, 1845 S;PE[7][10]
Samuel Nelson Feb. 4, 1845 confirmed Feb. 14, 1845 S;PE[7][10]
John M. Read Feb. 4, 1845 no action S[7][10]
Fillmore Mar. 4, 1853 Whig Edward A. Bradford Dem Aug. 16, 1852 no action S[7][10]
George E. Badger Jan. 3, 1853 withdrawn Feb. 14, 1853 S;PE[7][10]
William C. Micou Feb. 14, 1853 no action S;PE[7][10]
Buchanan Mar. 4, 1861 Dem Jeremiah S. Black Dem Feb. 5, 1861 declined Feb. 21, 1861 PE[7][10]
Hayes Mar. 4, 1881 Rep William Burnham Woods Dem Dec. 15, 1880 confirmed Dec. 21, 1880 PE[7][10]
Stanley MatthewsA Jan. 26, 1881 no action PE[7][10]
Cleveland Mar. 4, 1889 Dem Melville Fuller Rep Apr. 30, 1888 confirmed July 20, 1888 [3][10]
B. Harrison Mar. 4, 1893 Rep George Shiras Jr. Rep July 19, 1892 confirmed July 26, 1892 [10]
Hoover Mar. 4, 1933 Rep Benjamin N. Cardozo Rep Feb. 15, 1932 confirmed Feb. 24, 1932
L. Johnson Jan. 20, 1969 Dem Abe FortasB Dem June 26, 1968 withdrawn Oct. 2, 1968 NV[3][7][10]
Homer ThornberryC June 26, 1968 withdrawn Oct. 2, 1968 NV[7][10]
Obama Jan. 20, 2017 Dem Merrick GarlandD Rep Mar. 16, 2016 no action Jan. 3, 2017 [6][10][11]


A.^ Matthews was re-nominated immediately by President Garfield and confirmed.
B.^ Fortas was a sitting Associate Justice nominated to assume the post of Chief Justice; he continued to serve on the Court after this nomination was withdrawn.
C.^ This nomination (to assume Fortas's seat should Fortas become Chief Justice) became moot when Fortas's nomination was withdrawn.
D.^ During the 2016 Garland dispute, attention was drawn to the fact that Anthony Kennedy was confirmed by a Democratic Senate on February 18, 1988, during the last year of Republican Ronald Reagan's presidency (which ended January 20, 1989).[12] However, Kennedy is excluded from this list because he had been nominated on November 11, 1987 (for a seat that had been vacant since June 26, 1987).

See also[]


  1. ^ "Do presidents stop nominating judges in final year?", Politifact (February 14, 2016).
  2. ^ Kiely, Eugene. "Cruz, Rubio Twist Court 'Precedent'", (February 17, 2016).
  3. ^ a b c d Kessler, Glenn. "Does the Senate have a constitutional responsibility to consider a Supreme Court nomination?", Washington Post (March 16, 2016).
  4. ^ Nelson, Michael. "2013 and Beyond: Barack Obama and the Perils of Second Term Presidents" in Elections of 2012, p. 33 (SAGE Publications, 2013): "During the final year of the second term, the Senate takes an especially jaundiced view of the president's judicial nominations. Historically, the rejection rate for final year nominations to the United States Supreme Court has been 48 percent, compared with 14 percent for nominations made earlier in the term. When the opposition party controls the Senate, the final year rejection rate rises to 75 percent."
  5. ^ Levy, Gabrielle. "Even GOP Voters Think Senate Should Confirm SCOTUS Nominee", U.S. News and World Report (March 31, 2016): "Because Obama has less than a year left in his term, McConnell said, he should not get to make a lifetime appointment..."
  6. ^ a b Shear, Michael (March 16, 2016). "Obama Chooses Merrick Garland for Supreme Court". New York Times.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Kar, Robin and Mazzone, Jason. "The Garland Affair: What History and the Constitution Really Say About President Obama's Powers to Appoint a Replacement for Justice Scalia", NYU Law Review (On-Line Features, 2016) via SSRN.
  8. ^ "Law Profs Kar and Mazzone Respond", Bench Memos, National Review (June 9, 2016).
  9. ^ Beth, Richard (2009). Supreme Court Nominations: Senate Floor Procedure and Practice, 1789-2009. DIANE Publishing. pp. 5ff. ISBN 978-1-4379-1994-3.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "Supreme Court Nominations". Official website of the United States Senate. Retrieved February 3, 2006.
  11. ^ Bravin, Jess (January 3, 2017). "President Obama's Supreme Court Nomination of Merrick Garland Expires". Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^

External links[]