How long will the nom­i­na­tion process take?

Judge Sotomayor should be con­firmed before the Senate takes its summer recess, sched­uled to begin on Aug. 7. The pres­i­dent expects that she will be sit­ting when the Supreme Court begins its term in October.

What are the offi­cial steps in the nom­i­na­tion process? Who has the final say?

Under Article II sec­tion 2 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, the pres­i­dent nom­i­nates Supreme Court judges, and appoints them, with the “advice and con­sent” of the Senate. The Senate Judi­ciary Com­mittee will con­sider the nom­i­na­tion and hold a hearing. The com­mittee will then vote on the nom­i­na­tion and send its rec­om­men­da­tion to the Senate, which will have an unlim­ited debate. If there is a fil­i­buster, 60 votes will be required to end the debate. The Senate will con­firm or reject the nom­inee by a simple majority.

What ques­tions should Sotomayor be pre­pared to answer during the Senate Judi­ciary Com­mittee hearings?

It appears Judge Sotomayor will be asked to defend her vote in the case of Ricci v. DeSte­fano, which is under con­sid­er­a­tion by the Supreme Court. The case raises the ques­tion of whether New Haven vio­lated a fed­eral fair employ­ment statute and the Four­teenth Amendment’s Equal Pro­tec­tion clause by refusing to cer­tify for pro­mo­tion a list of fire­fighters. New Haven claimed such pro­mo­tions would have a dis­parate impact on minority fire­fighters. Judge Sotomayor voted with two of her col­leagues on the appeals court to sup­port New Haven’s action, as did the Dis­trict Court.
Recent Supreme Court nom­i­nees have avoided spec­u­lating on how they might vote on hot button issues such as gay mar­riage or abor­tion, and Judge Sotomayor will follow this practice.

How many Supreme Court nom­i­nees has the Senate rejected?

Between 1789 and 2007, 36 nom­i­na­tions have failed to be con­firmed. In the 20th cen­tury there were six fail­ures, most promi­nently Judge Robert Bork, who was nom­i­nated by Pres­i­dent Reagan in 1987. Most recently, Har­riet E. Miers, nom­i­nated by Pres­i­dent Bush in 2005, with­drew under pressure.

What hap­pens if this nom­inee is rejected?

It is hard to imagine this nom­i­na­tion failing. Pres­i­dent Obama seems deter­mined to add to the gender and ethnic diver­sity of the court, and I expect he will per­sist in that goal if the unimag­in­able came to pass.