Data: As of today Merrick Garland is the most delayed Supreme Court nominee in history

 

Recently on Twitter I saw a post from Barack Obama’s account that suggested that the Republican Congress’s refusal to call a vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland is unprecedented. Being not too informed on the topic, this got me thinking. Is what is happening to Merrick Garland actually unique? Beyond that, have these types of politically motivated delays gotten longer or become more common over time? Luckily for me, Wikipedia has a bizarrely well maintenanced dataset on the topic that was ripe for the taking, so I downloaded the sucker and threw it into Excel. I will point out that I did not individually research each of these people so I’m trusting the accuracy of the data. Luckily for me, lying is illegal on the internet.

While I was there I cleaned out a few columns that we won’t be using and simplified column names. Now we’re ready to load the data.

library(ggplot2)
library(dplyr)
scourt <- read.csv("scourt3.csv")
scourt$Date.of.Result <- as.Date(scourt$Date.of.Result, format = "%m/%d/%Y")
## For some reason Submitted just wasn't formatting 
## the way it was supposed to and for the life of me I could not figure out why.
## Oh well, we work around it.
newSubmitted <- scourt$Date.of.Result - scourt$Days
scourt$Submitted <- newSubmitted
knitr::kable(scourt) 
 

Nominee

Age

President

Party

Control

Submitted

Result

Date.of.Result

Days

John Jay

43

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

John Rutledge

50

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

William Cushing

57

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

Robert H. Harrison

44

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

declined

1789-09-26

2

James Wilson

47

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

John Blair/Jr.

57

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

James Iredell

38

Washington

None

PA

1790-02-08

confirmed

1790-02-10

2

Thomas Johnson[2]

57

Washington

None

PA

1791-11-01

confirmed

1791-11-07

6

William Paterson

47

Washington

None

PA

1793-02-27

withdrawn

1793-02-28

1

William Paterson

47

Washington

None

PA

1793-03-04

confirmed

1793-03-04

0

John Rutledge[1]

56

Washington

None

Fed

1795-12-10

rejected

1795-12-15

5

William Cushing[3]

63

Washington

None

Fed

1796-01-26

declined

1796-01-27

1

Samuel Chase

55

Washington

None

Fed

1796-01-26

confirmed

1796-01-27

1

Oliver Ellsworth

51

Washington

None

Fed

1796-03-03

confirmed

1796-03-04

1

Bushrod Washington

36

J. Adams

Fed

Fed

1798-12-19

confirmed

1798-12-20

1

Alfred Moore

44

J. Adams

Fed

Fed

1799-12-04

confirmed

1799-12-10

6

John Jay

55

J. Adams

Fed

Fed

1800-12-18

declined

1800-12-19

1

John Marshall

45

J. Adams

Fed

Fed

1801-01-20

confirmed

1801-01-27

7

William Johnson

32

Jefferson

D-R

D-R

1804-03-22

confirmed

1804-03-24

2

Henry B. Livingston

49

Jefferson

D-R

D-R

1806-12-13

confirmed

1806-12-17

4

Thomas Todd

42

Jefferson

D-R

D-R

1807-02-28

confirmed

1807-03-02

2

Levi Lincoln/Sr.

61

Madison

D-R

D-R

1811-01-02

declined

1811-01-03

1

Alexander Wolcott

52

Madison

D-R

D-R

1811-02-04

rejected

1811-02-13

9

John Quincy Adams

43

Madison

D-R

D-R

1811-02-21

declined

1811-02-22

1

Joseph Story

32

Madison

D-R

D-R

1811-11-15

confirmed

1811-11-18

3

Gabriel Duvall

58

Madison

D-R

D-R

1811-11-15

confirmed

1811-11-18

3

Smith Thompson[1]

55

Monroe

D-R

D-R

1823-12-05

confirmed

1823-12-09

4

Robert Trimble

49

J. Q. Adams

D-R

D-R

1826-04-11

confirmed

1826-05-09

28

John J. Crittenden

41

J. Q. Adams

D-R

D-R

1828-12-17

postponed

1829-02-12

57

John McLean

43

Jackson

Dem

Dem

1829-03-06

confirmed

1829-03-07

1

Henry Baldwin

49

Jackson

Dem

Dem

1830-01-04

confirmed

1830-01-06

2

James Moore Wayne

44

Jackson

Dem

NR

1835-01-06

confirmed

1835-01-09

3

Roger B. Taney

57

Jackson

Dem

NR

1835-01-15

postponed

1835-03-03

47

Roger B. Taney

58

Jackson

Dem

Dem

1835-12-28

confirmed

1836-03-15

78

Philip P. Barbour

52

Jackson

Dem

Dem

1835-12-28

confirmed

1836-03-15

78

John Catron

51

Jackson

Dem

Dem

1837-03-03

confirmed

1837-03-08

5

William Smith

74

Jackson

Dem

Dem

1837-03-03

declined

1837-03-08

5

John McKinley

57

Van Buren

Dem

Dem

1837-09-18

confirmed

1837-09-25

7

Peter Vivian Daniel

56

Van Buren

Dem

Dem

1841-02-26

confirmed

1841-03-02

4

John C. Spencer

56

Tyler

None

Whig

1844-01-09

rejected

1844-01-31

22

Reuben Walworth

55

Tyler

None

Whig

1844-06-13

withdrawn

1844-06-17

4

Edward King

50

Tyler

None

Whig

1844-06-05

postponed

1844-06-15

10

John C. Spencer

56

Tyler

None

Whig

1844-06-17

withdrawn

1844-06-17

0

Reuben Walworth

55

Tyler

None

Whig

1844-06-17

no action

1844-06-17

0

Edward King

50

Tyler

None

Whig

1844-12-04

withdrawn

1845-02-07

65

Reuben Walworth

56

Tyler

None

Whig

1844-12-04

withdrawn

1845-02-04

62

Samuel Nelson

52

Tyler

None

Whig

1845-02-04

confirmed

1845-02-14

10

John M. Read

47

Tyler

None

Whig

1845-02-07

no action

1845-02-07

0

George Woodward

36

Polk

Dem

Dem

1845-12-23

rejected

1846-01-22

30

Levi Woodbury[1]

56

Polk

Dem

Dem

1845-12-23

confirmed

1846-01-31

39

Robert Cooper Grier

52

Polk

Dem

Dem

1846-08-03

confirmed

1846-08-04

1

Benjamin R. Curtis[1]

42

Fillmore

Whig

Dem

1851-12-11

confirmed

1851-12-20

9

Edward A. Bradford

38

Fillmore

Whig

Dem

1852-08-16

no action

1852-08-16

0

George E. Badger

57

Fillmore

Whig

Dem

1853-01-03

withdrawn

1853-02-14

42

William C. Micou

46

Fillmore

Whig

Dem

1853-02-14

no action

1853-02-14

0

John A. Campbell

41

Pierce

Dem

Dem

1853-03-21

confirmed

1853-03-22

1

Nathan Clifford

54

Buchanan

Dem

Dem

1857-12-09

confirmed

1858-01-12

34

Jeremiah S. Black

51

Buchanan

Dem

Dem

1861-02-21

no action

1861-02-21

0

Noah Haynes Swayne

57

Lincoln

Rep

Rep

1862-01-21

confirmed

1862-01-24

3

Samuel Freeman Miller

48

Lincoln

Rep

Rep

1862-07-16

confirmed

1862-07-16

0

David Davis

47

Lincoln

Rep

Rep

1862-12-01

confirmed

1862-12-08

7

Stephen Johnson Field

46

Lincoln

Rep

Rep

1863-03-06

confirmed

1863-03-10

4

Salmon P. Chase

56

Lincoln

Rep

Rep

1864-12-06

confirmed

1864-12-06

0

Henry Stanbery

63

A. Johnson

None

Rep

1866-04-16

no action

1866-04-16

0

Ebenezer R. Hoar

53

Grant

Rep

Rep

1869-12-14

rejected

1870-02-03

51

Edwin M. Stanton

54

Grant

Rep

Rep

1869-12-20

confirmed

1869-12-20

0

William Strong

61

Grant

Rep

Rep

1870-02-17

confirmed

1870-02-18

1

Joseph P. Bradley

56

Grant

Rep

Rep

1870-02-07

confirmed

1870-03-21

42

Ward Hunt

62

Grant

Rep

Rep

1872-12-03

confirmed

1872-12-11

8

George Henry Williams

50

Grant

Rep

Rep

1873-12-01

withdrawn

1874-01-08

38

Caleb Cushing

73

Grant

Rep

Rep

1874-01-09

withdrawn

1874-01-13

4

Morrison Waite

58

Grant

Rep

Rep

1874-01-19

confirmed

1874-01-21

2

John Marshall Harlan

44

Hayes

Rep

Rep

1877-10-16

confirmed

1877-11-29

44

William Burnham Woods

56

Hayes

Rep

Dem

1880-12-15

confirmed

1880-12-21

6

Stanley Matthews

57

Hayes

Rep

Dem

1881-01-26

no action

1881-01-26

0

Stanley Matthews

57

Garfield

Rep

Split

1881-03-14

confirmed

1881-05-12

59

Horace Gray

53

Arthur

Rep

Split

1881-12-19

confirmed

1881-12-20

1

Roscoe Conkling

52

Arthur

Rep

Split

1882-02-24

declined

1882-03-02

6

Samuel Blatchford

62

Arthur

Rep

Split

1882-03-13

confirmed

1882-03-22

9

Lucius Q.C. Lamar

62

Cleveland

Dem

Rep

1887-12-06

confirmed

1888-01-16

41

Melville Fuller

55

Cleveland

Dem

Rep

1888-04-30

confirmed

1888-07-20

81

David Josiah Brewer

52

B. Harrison

Rep

Rep

1889-12-04

confirmed

1889-12-18

14

Henry Billings Brown

54

B. Harrison

Rep

Rep

1890-12-23

confirmed

1890-12-29

6

George Shiras/Jr.

60

B. Harrison

Rep

Rep

1892-07-19

confirmed

1892-07-26

7

Howell E. Jackson

60

B. Harrison

Rep

Rep

1893-02-02

confirmed

1893-02-18

16

William Hornblower

42

Cleveland

Dem

Dem

1893-12-05

no action

1893-12-05

0

William Hornblower

42

Cleveland

Dem

Dem

1893-12-05

rejected

1894-01-15

41

Wheeler H. Peckham

61

Cleveland

Dem

Dem

1894-01-22

rejected

1894-02-16

25

Edward D. White

48

Cleveland

Dem

Dem

1894-02-19

confirmed

1894-02-19

0

Rufus W. Peckham

57

Cleveland

Dem

Rep

1895-12-03

confirmed

1895-12-09

6

Joseph McKenna

54

McKinley

Rep

Rep

1897-12-16

confirmed

1898-01-21

36

Oliver W. Holmes/Jr.[1]

61

T. Roosevelt

Rep

Rep

1902-12-02

confirmed

1902-12-04

2

William R. Day

53

T. Roosevelt

Rep

Rep

1903-02-19

confirmed

1903-02-23

4

William Henry Moody

52

T. Roosevelt

Rep

Rep

1906-12-03

confirmed

1906-12-12

9

Horace Harmon Lurton

65

Taft

Rep

Rep

1909-12-13

confirmed

1909-12-20

7

Charles Evans Hughes

48

Taft

Rep

Rep

1910-04-25

confirmed

1910-05-02

7

Edward D. White[2]

65

Taft

Rep

Rep

1910-12-12

confirmed

1910-12-12

0

Willis Van Devanter

51

Taft

Rep

Rep

1910-12-12

confirmed

1910-12-15

3

Joseph Rucker Lamar

53

Taft

Rep

Rep

1910-12-12

confirmed

1910-12-15

3

Mahlon Pitney

54

Taft

Rep

Rep

1912-02-19

confirmed

1912-03-13

23

James C. McReynolds

52

Wilson

Dem

Dem

1914-08-19

confirmed

1914-08-29

10

Louis Brandeis

59

Wilson

Dem

Dem

1916-01-28

confirmed

1916-06-01

125

John Hessin Clarke

58

Wilson

Dem

Dem

1916-07-14

confirmed

1916-07-24

10

William Howard Taft

63

Harding

Rep

Rep

1921-06-30

confirmed

1921-06-30

0

George Sutherland

60

Harding

Rep

Rep

1922-09-05

confirmed

1922-09-05

0

Pierce Butler

56

Harding

Rep

Rep

1922-11-21

no action

1922-11-21

0

Pierce Butler

56

Harding

Rep

Rep

1922-12-05

confirmed

1922-12-21

16

Edward Terry Sanford

58

Harding

Rep

Rep

1923-01-24

confirmed

1923-01-29

5

Harlan F. Stone

52

Coolidge

Rep

Rep

1925-01-05

confirmed

1925-02-05

31

Charles Evans Hughes

67

Hoover

Rep

Rep

1930-02-03

confirmed

1930-02-13

10

John J. Parker

44

Hoover

Rep

Rep

1930-03-21

rejected

1930-05-07

47

Owen Roberts

55

Hoover

Rep

Rep

1930-05-09

confirmed

1930-05-20

11

Benjamin N. Cardozo

61

Hoover

Rep

Rep

1932-02-15

confirmed

1932-02-24

9

Hugo Black

51

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1937-08-12

confirmed

1937-08-17

5

Stanley Forman Reed

53

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1938-01-15

confirmed

1938-01-25

10

Felix Frankfurter

56

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1939-01-05

confirmed

1939-01-17

12

William O. Douglas

40

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1939-03-20

confirmed

1939-04-04

15

Frank Murphy

50

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1940-01-02

confirmed

1940-01-16

14

Harlan F. Stone[2]

68

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1941-06-12

confirmed

1941-06-27

15

James F. Byrnes

58

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1941-06-12

confirmed

1941-06-12

0

Robert H. Jackson

49

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1941-06-12

confirmed

1941-07-07

25

Wiley Blount Rutledge

48

F. Roosevelt

Dem

Dem

1943-01-11

confirmed

1943-02-08

28

Harold Hitz Burton

57

Truman

Dem

Dem

1945-09-19

confirmed

1945-09-19

0

Fred M. Vinson

56

Truman

Dem

Dem

1946-06-06

confirmed

1946-06-20

14

Tom C. Clark

49

Truman

Dem

Dem

1949-08-02

confirmed

1949-08-18

16

Sherman Minton

58

Truman

Dem

Dem

1949-09-15

confirmed

1949-10-04

19

Earl Warren[1]

62

Eisenhower

Rep

Rep

1954-01-11

confirmed

1954-03-01

49

John Marshall Harlan II

55

Eisenhower

Rep

Rep

1954-11-09

no action

1954-11-09

0

John Marshall Harlan II

55

Eisenhower

Rep

Rep

1955-01-10

confirmed

1955-03-16

65

William J. Brennan/Jr.[1]

50

Eisenhower

Rep

Dem

1957-01-14

confirmed

1957-03-19

64

Charles Evans Whittaker

56

Eisenhower

Rep

Dem

1957-03-02

confirmed

1957-03-19

17

Potter Stewart[1]

44

Eisenhower

Rep

Dem

1959-01-17

confirmed

1959-05-05

108

Byron White

44

Kennedy

Dem

Dem

1962-04-03

confirmed

1962-04-11

8

Arthur Goldberg

54

Kennedy

Dem

Dem

1962-08-31

confirmed

1962-09-25

25

Abe Fortas

55

L. Johnson

Dem

Dem

1965-07-28

confirmed

1965-08-11

14

Thurgood Marshall

58

L. Johnson

Dem

Dem

1967-06-13

confirmed

1967-08-30

78

Abe Fortas[2]

58

L. Johnson

Dem

Dem

1968-06-26

withdrawn

1968-10-02

98

Homer Thornberry

59

L. Johnson

Dem

Dem

1968-06-26

withdrawn

1968-10-02

98

Warren E. Burger

61

Nixon

Rep

Dem

1969-05-23

confirmed

1969-06-09

17

Clement Haynsworth

56

Nixon

Rep

Dem

1969-08-21

rejected

1969-11-21

92

G. Harrold Carswell

50

Nixon

Rep

Dem

1970-01-19

rejected

1970-04-08

79

Harry Blackmun

61

Nixon

Rep

Dem

1970-04-15

confirmed

1970-05-12

27

Lewis F. Powell/Jr.

64

Nixon

Rep

Dem

1971-10-22

confirmed

1971-12-06

45

William Rehnquist

47

Nixon

Rep

Dem

1971-10-22

confirmed

1971-12-10

49

John Paul Stevens

55

Ford

Rep

Dem

1975-11-28

confirmed

1975-12-17

19

Sandra Day O’Connor

51

Reagan

Rep

Rep

1981-08-19

confirmed

1981-09-21

33

William Rehnquist[2]

61

Reagan

Rep

Rep

1986-06-20

confirmed

1986-09-17

89

Antonin Scalia

50

Reagan

Rep

Rep

1986-06-24

confirmed

1986-09-17

85

Robert Bork

60

Reagan

Rep

Dem

1987-07-01

rejected

1987-10-23

114

Anthony Kennedy

51

Reagan

Rep

Dem

1987-11-30

confirmed

1988-02-03

65

David Souter

50

G.H.W. Bush

Rep

Dem

1990-07-25

confirmed

1990-10-02

69

Clarence Thomas

43

G.H.W. Bush

Rep

Dem

1991-07-08

confirmed

1991-10-15

99

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

60

Clinton

Dem

Dem

1993-06-14

confirmed

1993-08-03

50

Stephen Breyer

55

Clinton

Dem

Dem

1994-05-17

confirmed

1994-07-29

73

John Roberts

50

G.W. Bush

Rep

Rep

2005-07-29

withdrawn

2005-09-06

39

John Roberts

50

G.W. Bush

Rep

Rep

2005-09-06

confirmed

2005-09-29

23

Harriet Miers

60

G.W. Bush

Rep

Rep

2005-10-07

withdrawn

2005-10-28

21

Samuel Alito

55

G.W. Bush

Rep

Rep

2005-11-10

confirmed

2006-01-31

82

Sonia Sotomayor

54

Obama

Dem

Dem

2009-06-01

confirmed

2009-08-06

66

Elena Kagan

50

Obama

Dem

Dem

2010-05-10

confirmed

2010-08-05

87

Merrick Garland

63

Obama

Dem

Rep

2016-03-22

pending

2016-07-26

126

Here we can visualize 240 years of American Supreme Court nomination history. It’s huge and clunky and kind of a big mess so I don’t expect any grand conclusions to be drawn here, I just kinda thought it looked neat. To answer our first question, whether the amount of time the Republicans have waited to vote on Merrick Garland is truly unprecedented. First, we’ll reorder the dataset by length of delay and see where ol’ Merrick falls.g <- ggplot(scourt, aes(x=Submitted, y=ID))
g <- g + geom_segment(aes(x=Submitted, xend=Date.of.Result, y=ID, yend=ID, size=10, color=Nominee)) + 
        theme(legend.position = 'bottom', legend.key.width = unit(.2, "cm"), legend.justification="left") + 
        xlab("Year") + ggtitle("Length of Delay for Each Supreme Court Nominee")
scourtDesc <- arrange(scourt, desc(Days))
which(scourtDesc$Nominee == "Merrick Garland")
## [1] 1

As we can see, it just so happens that as of today Merrick Garland is the most delayed Supreme Court nominee of all time. We can see how he stacks up to the top 20 most delayed candidates ever (grouped here by nominating party.)

scourtDescHi <- scourtDesc[1:20,]
ggplot(scourtDescHi, aes(x=Nominee, y= Days, fill=Party, color = Party)) + 
        geom_bar(stat = "identity") + 
        theme(axis.text.x = element_text(angle = 90, hjust = 1)) +
        geom_hline(aes(yintercept=125)) + 
        ggtitle("Top 20 Longest Supreme Court Nominee Delays")

1

What makes Garland more unique is that he is the most delayed justice of all time even though the Senate has not heard a single hearing on his nomination. All other justices included in this dataset, confirmed or otherwise, were fully adjudicated in the number of days listed in the following charts. If Senate Republicans choose not to hold a hearing until after the election on November 8th, as they have previously indicated, Garland’s nomination will have waited for 229 days, nearly double the amount of time taken to conduct hearings and vote during the nomination process of Louis Brandeis, the second runner-up.

Now, we’re also interested in whether delays have become more common as a result of political parties using control of the legislative process to block the will of a President from the other party. To tease this out, we’ll need to restrict our further analyses to cases in which the party in control of the Senate (signified by the Control variable) is different from the one of the President (signified by the Party variable).

scourtOppo <- scourt
scourtOppo$Party <- as.character(scourtOppo$Party)
scourtOppo$Control <- as.character(scourtOppo$Control)
scourtOppo <- filter(scourtOppo, Party != Control)
knitr::kable(summary(scourtOppo[2:10))

Nominee

Age

President

Party

Control

Submitted

Result

Date.of.Result

Days

Reuben Walworth : 3

Min. :38.00

Washington:14

Length:54

Length:54

Min. :1789-09-24

confirmed:31

Min. :1789-09-26

Min. : 0.00

Edward King : 2

1st Qu.:47.75

Tyler : 9

Class :character

Class :character

1st Qu.:1805-11-18

declined : 3

1st Qu.:1805-11-20

1st Qu.: 2.00

John C. Spencer : 2

Median :55.00

Nixon : 6

Mode :character

Mode :character

Median :1852-10-25

no action: 6

Median :1852-11-15

Median : 7.50

Stanley Matthews: 2

Mean :52.93

Fillmore : 4

NA

NA

Mean :1874-12-13

pending : 1

Mean :1875-01-10

Mean : 27.81

William Paterson: 2

3rd Qu.:57.00

Arthur : 3

NA

NA

3rd Qu.:1957-02-18

postponed: 2

3rd Qu.:1957-03-19

3rd Qu.: 48.50

Anthony Kennedy : 1

Max. :64.00

Cleveland : 3

NA

NA

Max. :2016-03-22

rejected : 5

Max. :2016-07-26

Max. :126.00

(Other) :42

NA

(Other) :15

NA

NA

NA

withdrawn: 6

NA

NA


For example: let’s say Ruth Bader Ginsburg wanted to retire. Right now there’s a Republican Senate that obviously wants to block Obama from appointing anyone. She’d be incentivized to wait after the election to retire, because perhaps the downticket effects of a certain orange complexioned real estate magnate result in the Republican party losing some seats.
Now at first glance, this data might lead us to believe that Presidents and Justices of the same party behave opportunistically to create a situation in which the President is able to nominate a justice with his party in control of the Senate. You may have heard this argument before.

After all, only 54 out of 161 Supreme Court Nominations were made when an opposing party controlled the Senate, which is almost exactly 1/3rd (33.54%). This number is made even more striking when we note that 14 out of those 54 were made by one George Washington, who basically got whatever he wanted from Congress and only landed in this part of the dataset because neither he nor Congress technically had party alignments.

HeSavesChildrenButNotTheBritishChildren <- filter(scourt, President == "Washington")
knitr::kable(HeSavesChildrenButNotTheBritishChildren)

ID

Nominee

Age

President

Party

Control

Submitted

Result

Date of Result

Days

1

John Jay

43

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

2

John Rutledge

50

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

3

William Cushing

57

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

4

Robert H. Harrison

44

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

declined

1789-09-26

2

5

James Wilson

47

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

6

John Blair/Jr.

57

Washington

None

PA

1789-09-24

confirmed

1789-09-26

2

7

James Iredell

38

Washington

None

PA

1790-02-08

confirmed

1790-02-10

2

8

Thomas Johnson[2]

57

Washington

None

PA

1791-11-01

confirmed

1791-11-07

6

9

William Paterson

47

Washington

None

PA

1793-02-27

withdrawn

1793-02-28

1

10

William Paterson

47

Washington

None

PA

1793-03-04

confirmed

1793-03-04

0

11

John Rutledge[1]

56

Washington

None

Fed

1795-12-10

rejected

1795-12-15

5

12

William Cushing[3]

63

Washington

None

Fed

1796-01-26

declined

1796-01-27

1

13

Samuel Chase

55

Washington

None

Fed

1796-01-26

confirmed

1796-01-27

1

14

Oliver Ellsworth

51

Washington

None

Fed

1796-03-03

confirmed

1796-03-04

1

## https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7iVsdRbhnc

The only exception would be John Rutledge, which is actually a super fascinating story.

Digression: Turns out he had already been an Associate Justice in the original lineup appointed by Washington, but left before he had ever heard a case to go be Chief Justice of the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas and Sessions (basically the South Carolina Circuit Court.) When Chief Justice John Jay resigned, Washington appointed him again during the Congressional recess. He immediately started shit with Washington and the Federalists over the Jay Treaty (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Treaty), which was viewed with suspicion by the Democratic-Republicans who feared it would bring the United States into closer relations with Great Britain. Super interesting stuffhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rutledge#Chief_Justice_of_the_Supreme_Court

Presidents and their politically aligned sitting justices would be well advised to do this kind of strategic decisionmaking if possible, as Supreme Court nominees are rejected about twice as often when the opposing party controls the vote.

scourtFriend <- scourt
scourtFriend$Party <- as.character(scourtFriend$Party)
scourtFriend$Control <- as.character(scourtFriend$Control)
scourtFriend <- filter(scourtFriend, Party == Control)
FriendReject <- (count(filter(scourtFriend, Result == "rejected"))/count(scourtFriend))*100
OppoReject <- (count(filter(scourtOppo, Result == "rejected"))/count(scourtOppo))*100
Percent.Rejected <- c(FriendReject,OppoReject)
Senate.Status <- c("Same Party", "Opposing Party")
rejectionTable <- cbind(Senate.Status,Percent.Rejected)
rejectionTable <- data.frame(rejectionTable)
## Warning in data.row.names(row.names, rowsi, i): some row.names duplicated:
## 2 --> row.names NOT used
colnames(rejectionTable) <- c("Senate Status", "Percent Rejected")
knitr::kable(rejectionTable)

Senate Status

Precent Rejected

Same Party

5.607477

Opposing Party

9.259259

We can also see that the average number of days before a decision is made is longer, especially when we eliminate George Washington’s thirteen appointments.

noWash <- filter(scourtOppo, President != "Washington")
averageOppoDelay <- c(mean(scourtFriend$Days), mean(scourtOppo$Days), mean(noWash$Days))
categories <- c("With Friendly Senate", "With Opposition Senate", "Opposition w/o Washington")
averageOppoDelay <- data.frame(categories, averageOppoDelay)
colnames(averageOppoDelay) <- c("Senate Type", "Average Delay (in days)")
knitr::kable(averageOppoDelay)

Senate Type

Average Delay (in days)

With Friendly Senate

21.97196

With Opposition Senate

27.81481

Opposition w/o Washington

36.82500

Despite what House of Cards may have told us, this kind of wheeler dealing does not appear to happen often. The percentage of nominees nominated to an opposing Senate lines up pretty well with the percentage of years in which the party of the president was different than the party of the Senate. There have been some pretty significant periods of essentially single party rule in the United States at the national level. For the Democrats this occurred after the collapse of the Federalist party, and again briefly after the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and for the Republicans this happened following the Civil War. All told, the President’s party has controlled the Senate 72.8% of the time throughout American history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Presidents_and_control_of_Congress).

One thing that is for sure however is that partisan stalling during the nomination process is increasing over time. We can visualize this with a simple regression of length of delay before decision (signified by the Days variable) against date of decision.

qplot(data=scourtOppo, x = Date.of.Result, y = Days) + 
geom_point(aes(size = 10), color = "steelblue", show.legend = FALSE) + g
eom_smooth(color = "black", method="lm") + 
xlab("Years") + ggtitle("Partisan Staling")

new3.png

summary(lm(data = scourt, Days ~ Date.of.Result))
## 
## Call:
## lm(formula = Days ~ Date.of.Result, data = scourt)
## 
## Residuals:
##    Min     1Q Median     3Q    Max 
## -40.04 -18.90  -5.21  10.36  94.70 
## 
## Coefficients:
##                 Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
## (Intercept)    4.388e+01  3.282e+00  13.372  < 2e-16 ***
## Date.of.Result 6.941e-04  8.884e-05   7.813 7.16e-13 ***
## ---
## Signif. codes:  0 '***' 0.001 '**' 0.01 '*' 0.05 '.' 0.1 ' ' 1
## 
## Residual standard error: 26.15 on 159 degrees of freedom
## Multiple R-squared:  0.2774, Adjusted R-squared:  0.2729 
## F-statistic: 61.04 on 1 and 159 DF,  p-value: 7.159e-13

It should be noted here that delays, no matter what their outcome or whether or not the President and the Senate share a party, have been increasing overall.

qplot(data = scourt, x = Date.of.Result, y = Days, color = Result) + xlab("Years") + 
        scale_alpha_discrete() + 
        ggtitle("Length of Delay by Result") + 
        geom_point(aes(size=10), show.legend = FALSE)

2

This has been an ongoing process that has sped rapidly since the early 1920s, when the Senate first developed an official review process. This practice gradually became more intensive, leading to the gauntlet of a process that exists today. However the length of delays for nominations when the President and the Senate do not share a party are increasing at an even quicker rate.

## Overall
lm(data = scourt, Days ~ Date.of.Result)
## 
## Call:
## lm(formula = Days ~ Date.of.Result, data = scourt)
## 
## Coefficients:
##    (Intercept)  Date.of.Result  
##      4.388e+01       6.941e-04
## President vs. Senate
lm(data = scourtOppo, Days ~ Date.of.Result)
## 
## Call:
## lm(formula = Days ~ Date.of.Result, data = scourtOppo)
## 
## Coefficients:
##    (Intercept)  Date.of.Result  
##      6.184e+01       9.809e-04

We can begin to get a sense of the answer to our second question, whether one party is more guilty of this tactic than the other, by observing the following chart.

scourtOppoNew <- filter(scourtOppo, Control %in% c("Dem","Rep"))
qplot(data=scourtOppoNew, x = Date.of.Result, y=Days, color=Control) + 
        geom_point(aes(size=10), show.legend = FALSE) + 
        xlab("Year") + ggtitle("Dem vs. Rep Stalling")

4

This is more inconclusive for a couple of reasons: We’ve really weedled down our sample size and the Republicans haven’t gotten a ton of chances to use this tactic. The Republicans did however get the chance to nominate many, many justices during their dominance of the Presidential contest in the late 20th Century. That means the Democrats did stall. A lot. During this period the Democrats also rejected nominees at a higher rate than in previous years (21.4% since 1950). Whether or not the Republicans would have done the same thing at the same time is anyone’s guess, but given the party’s uniquely petulant reaction to the Garland case, I’d argue that just because the GOP never had the opportunity to control the process the way that the Democrats did in the late 20th century does not mean that they wouldn’t.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our deep, dorky dive into Supreme Court nomination history as much as I have. Feel free to comment below if you have any suggestions or questions!

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