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The Albany Law Review hosts two annual symposia each year; the General Issue symposium and the Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke State Constitutional Commentary symposium.  The General Issue symposium, which is dedicated to a specific topic of contemporary importance to the legal community, is held in the fall and features presentations by some of our nation’s leading legal scholars and policy leaders.  The Lawrence H. Cooke State Constitutional Commentary symposium, named after the former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, is held in the spring and is dedicated to issues of state constitutional law.

Recent, fall 2016:

2016 Cooke Flyer

Justices Denied

Will past U.S. Senate trends regarding Supreme Court nominees inform modern outcomes?

Speculation about the United States Supreme Court has filled the news recently, with pundits wondering whom President Trump might nominate to fill key potential vacancies during his upcoming term. Yet the newly elected President's selections will all be moot unless the United States Senate approves their appointments to the highest bench in the federal system.

Twelve times throughout this nation's history, the Senate voted to reject nominees for seats on the Supreme Court's bench. In the Albany Law Review's upcoming Symposium issue, Benjamin Pomerance examines the historical background and political machinations of these twelve rejected nominees in significant detail. The trends identified in this article could have a monumental impact on the nation's judicial future if they hold true in the present day.   

For instance:

  • Virtually all of the rejections came from a Senate controlled by the same political party as the nominee. The vast majority of rejections occurred when significant divisions formed within one, if not all, of the era's dominant political parties. Could this year's bitterly divisive primary season and general election lead to a Republican-controlled Senate voting to reject nominees from their own party? 

  • Every twentieth century rejection occurred after the nominee faced opposition from both civil rights groups and labor groups. The tide regarding the nominations of John Parker, Clement Haynsworth, G. Harrold Carswell, and Robert Bork turned after pro-labor associations and civil rights organizations publically denounced the nominees' records on these topics. Several Senators later admitted that they planned to vote to confirm, but switched their vote out of fear of being branded as anti-labor racists. Will these still-relevant issues damage a Trump nominee's chances of confirmation?

  • Local issues can go a long way. Seemingly qualified Supreme Court nominees have been rejected because of such issues as an old rivalry formed during partisan infighting in rural Pennsylvania, a single paragraph within a single speech delivered during the North Carolina gubernatorial race, and membership on a New York City committee that blocked an ethically questionable candidate's path to a judgeship in New York. Could old rivalries and seemingly minor local disputes come back to haunt a Trump nominee's confirmation hopes?  

Read the full article on these issues, and other articles about the future of the United States Supreme Court, in this year's Albany Law Review Vol. 80, Issue 2.