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Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tom Brakefield/Digital Vision/age fotostock, inc.)

Road to the Supreme Court

How does someone become a member of the Supreme Court?

April 12 , 2010

How does someone become a member of the Supreme Court? It starts with the President.

Step 1: Presidential Nomination

First, Obama will nominate someone to become a Supreme Court Justice. The President consults with top advisers before making his choice. He and a team of legal advisers review the careers, characters, and interests of many qualified people.
Step 2: Special Review

When the President finally makes his choice, he submits his nomination to the Senate for a vote. Before the Senate votes, the nominee meets with the Senate Judiciary Committee in a series of confirmation hearings.

During confirmation hearings, members of the Judiciary Committee question the nominee about his or her experience, personality, and opinions on major legal and political issues.

If the majority of Judiciary Committee members vote against the nominee, the President must choose another nominee.

Step 3: The Senate Votes

If the Judiciary Committee approves a nominee, the entire Senate debates the nomination. This gives all Senators a chance to make their feelings known about the nominee.

Since 1789, the Senate has rejected roughly 20 percent of the nominees. Senators look very closely at a nominee's background because, once approved, the nominee is a Justice for life.

Step 4: Taking a Seat

If a nominee gets more than half the votes in the Senate, he or she is confirmed. Then that person takes a sacred oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.


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