Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Advisor

Curtis W. Martin

Second Advisor

Dayton D. McKean


The Supreme Court and prominent individuals who have served on the court have been the subject of extensive study by political scientists. In the past study of the Supreme Court has emphasized careful analysis of important court decisions and the method of their formulation. Supreme Court Justices have generally been viewed as existing outside the normal political process, making decisions without political influence. Such a view is no longer held by knowledgeable political scientists; nevertheless, systematic study of how the political nature of the Supreme Court affects the selection process for Supreme Court Justices has been limited.

The Constitution has not given clear criteria for selection of members of the Supreme Court, and Congress has not been successful in laying down a legal pattern in regard to the selection system; the system has thus been without prescription or pattern other than that which has evolved through the nation's history. Several studies have described Supreme Court Justices in terms of their general preparation and professional background; however, very little has been done in seeking to explain why twenty-six court nominees were rejected by the Senate between 1789 and 1970.

It is the purpose of this paper to examine the written and unwritten political structure which guides the President and the Senate in selecting members of the Supreme Court and by looking at the men who have been rejected, to determine what patterns, if any, have existed. In addition, such exploration may be useful in determining the success of the selection system and thus providing some basis for curbing undesirable nominees and aiding those who are well qualified.