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Law Library News Archive

Nov. 28, 2005.
Kristy Moon, editor.

All About the U.S. Supreme Court

The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., the nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day OíConnor, are scheduled to begin on January 9, 2006. With two vacancies on the Supreme Court occurring so close to each other (Judge John G. Roberts was sworn in as the Chief Justice of the United States in September 2005 to replace the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist), there is quite a renewed interest in the Supreme Court.

The Law Library has a terrific guide, "Supreme Court Nominations," which includes information about the recent nominees, including the unconfirmed, and the nomination and confirmation process.

Book of the Week

The Supreme Court of the United States: Hearings and Reports on Successful and Unsuccessful Nominations of Supreme Court Justices by the Senate Judiciary Committee, 1916-1994.

--Mary Whisner

Before Judge John Roberts was confirmed as the Chief Justice of the United States this summer, there hadnít been a vacancy on the Supreme Court for ten years. C-SPAN was around at that time but most of you probably didnít watch the hearings then. Even if you were glued to C-SPAN then, history did not begin with cable, and you might be interested in earlier nominees, too.

This set pulls together all the hearings for all the nominations from 1916 through 1994, starting with the controversial nomination of Louis Brandeis. One measure of the controversy surrounding Brandeis's nomination is the bulk of the hearings: they fill three volumes, while the materials for the next seven justices -- Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Stone, Jackson -- are consolidated in just one volume!

In addition to the hearing transcripts, the compilers (Roy M. Mersky, J. Myron Jacobstein, and others) have provided chronologies, bibliographies, and reprints of opinions the nominees wrote when they were in lower courts.

This set -- good for browsing or more focused research -- is in the Classified Stacks, at KF8744 .J8.

By the way, the nine justices who served on the Supreme Court until the passing of Chief Justice Rehnquist have served together longer than any in history -- since August 3, 1994, when Justice Breyer took the oath of office. The period when the membership of the Court remains stable is sometimes called a "natural court." For a list of all the natural courts since 1789, see Lee Epstein et al., The Supreme Court Compendium: Data, Decisions & Developments 371 (3d ed. 2003), KF8742 .S914 2003 at Reference Office.