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Presidential Involvement in the Supreme Court

United States Checks and Balances
United States Capitol Dome as seen from the Supreme Court Building, Washington D.C.

In the United States, a system of checks and balances exists to ensure that no branch of government becomes too powerful. In relation to the Supreme Court (the judicial branch) one of these instituted "checks" is that the executive branch, the President, appoints the Supreme Court Justices, who are in turn confirmed, or rejected, by the Senate (the legislative branch).

For the first 150 years of United States Constitutional History, apart from appointing Supreme Court Justices, there was very little Presidential intervention in the activities of the Supreme Court. However, in the 1940s, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt, things began to change.

Roosevelt was the first president to invite a Supreme Court nominee, Frank Murphy, to take the oath of office in the White House. Along with Frank Murphy, James F. Byrnes and Robert H. Jackson took their oaths of office in the White House during the Roosevelt presidency.

On October 1, 1945 President Harry Truman became the first president to attend the oath ceremony of a justice he appointed, Harold Burton. Like Roosevelt, he also hosted White House ceremonies for various justices including Fred Vinson, Tom Clark, and Sherman Minton.

Other presidents who would administer oaths in the White House include Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Richard Nixon was the first president to participate in an oath ceremony. On June 23, 1969 Nixon appeared before the Supreme Court as a member of the Supreme Court bar to read a tribute he wrote to the retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren. Gerald Ford also appeared as a member of the Supreme Court bar for the appointment of John Paul Stevens in 1975.

Most recently, after the appointment and confirmation of justice Sonia Sotomayor to Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, President Barack Obama held a private reception at the White House in her honor.



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