A seat is occupied by Merrick Garland, whose confirmation as Attorney General is expected in the coming days. Another longtime court judge, David Tatel, said he was downsizing, a change that allows Biden to name his successor.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas served as appellate judges at the courthouse at the bottom of Capitol Hill before joining the High Court at the top of the hill.
The late Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg also sat on the Court of Appeal, where they first formed their lasting friendship.
After Scalia died a little over five years ago. President Barack Obama nominated Garland to the Supreme Court, but Senate Republicans didn’t even give him a hearing, let alone a vote.
When Trump took office in January 2017, he had a vacant high court post to fill. Trump ended up making three Supreme Court appointments to accompany 54 appeals court picks and 174 trial judges, aided by the determination of then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to, as he said, “leave no vacancies behind”.
Democrats and their progressive allies say they have learned a lesson or two from Republicans and intend to give judicial appointments more consideration than in previous Democratic administrations.
“It’s an exceptional situation where you have a president and the people around him, people who really consider this a high priority,” said former Sen. Russ Feingold, the Democrat from Wisconsin who served with Biden in Senate for 16 years.
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