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Antonin Scalia’s death rocked the nation over thirteen months ago this March. His seat on the Supreme Court of the United States still sits empty.
President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill Antonin Scalia’s spot on the Supreme Court on January 31st, 2017, just days after taking office as the 45th President of the United States. One of Trump’s major campaign promises was to nominate a conservative justice to the court. He kept that promise.
You can learn more about Neil Gorsuch in our article on him here. He’s currently a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and holds his law degree from Harvard University. He’s a textualist and an originalist. His supporters say he is a great candidate to fill Scalia’s seat. It’s been weeks, so why is Scalia’s seat still empty? What is the protocol for confirming a justice? When can we expect Gorsuch to be voted on? Let’s take a look.
As you likely know, the president nominates someone for the Supreme Court. However, because we have a lovely system of checks and balances, that isn’t the end of the line. As the Constitution says explicitly, “he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court…”After the president nominates, the Senate holds confirmation hearings and votes on whether to go forward with the appointment. These hearings can get pretty testy. For example, Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings were known for their allegations of sexual harassment and the coining of the term “high-tech lynching.” Ultimately, Thomas was confirmed 52-48, an extremely narrow margin of victory.
So, where does that leave Gorsuch? His confirmation hearings are scheduled to start on March 20th. There will be around a four-day affair. Opening statements will be made on March 20th, a Monday, and questioning by the current senators will begin on March 21st. There will also be a chance for testimony by outside experts, such as other attorneys.
For us laypeople, it does seem like it has been a long time since Gorsuch was nominated. Is this normal, or is this a special case for the Trump administration? It’s pretty normal, actually. The time between Gorsuch’s nomination by Trump and the first day of his confirmation hearing will be 48 days, which was the same amount of wait time that Sotomayor and Kagan faced. This is one of the cases that probably isn’t partisan stalling. We would rather have a well-thought out process for the confirmation of the next Supreme Court Justice. In the meantime, Gorsuch has been on Capitol Hill meeting with senators to garner support from both sides of the aisle.