U.S. Supreme Court: Lines of Succession

UPDATE 01/31/17 – I will update this page upon the confirmation of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Though there are now only nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, the table below lists eleven lines of succession. There is one for the chief justiceship and ten for the associate justiceships that Congress has created at one time and another, as it has changed the size of the Court. In other words, two associate justiceships have “died out” in the course of the Court’s history. The present members of the Court, in addition to the chief justice, hold the first, second, third, fourth, sixth, eighth, ninth, and tenth associate justiceships created by Congress.

The horizontal dimension of the table lists each the eleven seats: the chief justiceship and ten associate justiceships. Justices are listed for each seat in chronological order, beginning with the justices nominated by Washington and ending with the justices nominated by Obama.

There are two horizontal divisions. The first, indicated by a double red line, delineates presidencies. The beginning of every justice’s term is associated with the president who nominated that person to a seat on the Court. The end of each justice’s term is associated with the president who was in office when the justice’s term ended by resignation or death.

The second horizontal division, indicated by alternating bands of gray and white, delineates chief justiceships. Thus the reader can see which justices served with a particular chief justice. The “Roberts Court,” for example, has thus far included Roberts, Souter, Sotomayor, Breyer, Kennedy, Stevens, Kagan, Ginsburg, O’Connor, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas.

Because there is a separate line of succession for the chief justiceship, persons who were already on the Court and then elevated to the chief justiceship are listed in two different places. Also, the names of a few other justices appear in more than one place because they served non-consecutive terms on the Court.

The table is divided into three parts, for ease of reading. (Zoom in if the type is too small for you.) The first part covers the chief justiceship and associate justice positions 1-3; the second part, associate justice positions 4-7; the third part, associate justice positions 8-10.

Supreme Court justices_1

Supreme Court justices_2

Supreme Court justices_3

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As a bonus, here are statistics about the frequency with which justices have disagreed with one another in non-unanimous cases, beginning with October Term 2005:

Supreme Court_disagreement among individual justices