Supreme Court: Filling a Vacancy Can Take Months

Fifteen people have been nominated as Supreme Court justices since 1975, the year that John Paul Stevens was nominated. Stevens, the court’s longest serving member and leader of its liberal bloc, notified President Obama on April 9 that he will retire when the court begins its summer recess in late June or early July, giving Obama his second opportunity to fill a seat on the court. Obama nominated Monday U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to fill that vacancy.

The chart below shows how long the process took for each of the previous 14 nominees. Names listed in bold are the court's current justices, while gray signifies a retired justice. All others listed either withdrew or were not confirmed. Mouse over the bars for detailed information, or click on the table icon for totals and notes on each nominee.

NOTES: Nominations refer to the date the president submitted the nomination to the Senate for everyone except Douglas Ginsburg, whose nomination was announced but never officially submitted. Bush nominated Roberts in July 2005 to replace O'Connor. In September 2005, following Rehnquist's death, Bush then nominated Roberts to be chief justice. The days between the vacancy announcement and nomination represent those between O'Connor's vacancy and Roberts' nomination as chief justice. Thomas went through a second round of hearings in October 1991 after his nomination was sent to the floor. The second round is counted in the time between Thomas' nomination being sent to the floor and his confirmation.

SOURCES: Supreme Court, Senate Judiciary Committee

Credits: Jamie Baylis, Sarah Vanderbilt, Devin Varsalona, Thomas Wilburn