Speculation over potential nominations to the Supreme Court of the United States by a President Hillary Clinton were fueled by statements that Clinton made during her 2016 Presidential campaign regarding her preferences with regard to judicial appointments, particularly with respect to the existing open seat on the court resulting from the death of Antonin Scalia. As Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump, she will be unable to appoint any justices to the Supreme Court. After taking office, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to succeed Scalia on January 31, 2017.
If an Obama nominee did not assume the seat formerly occupied by Antonin Scalia, Clinton would have begun her term with a vacancy to be filled on the Supreme Court, as the court has had nine seats since the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1869. In addition, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born 1933), Anthony Kennedy (born 1936) and Stephen Breyer (born 1938) are or will be over 80 years old during the president's first term of office, stoking speculation that additional vacancies would have been forthcoming. This led to discussion of the possibility that Senate Republicans may have sought to block the confirmation of any Clinton nominees. Assuming Scalia's vacancy is not filled by Obama, the court will consist of the following justices on January 20, 2017, the date of the next presidential inauguration:
On February 13, 2016, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead while vacationing at Cibolo Creek Ranch near Marfa, Texas. President Barack Obama stated that he planned to nominate someone to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court. Scalia's death marked just the second time in sixty years that a sitting justice died.
On March 16, 2016, Obama nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to replace Scalia. On February 23, 2016, the 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stating their intention to withhold consent on any nominee made by President Obama, and that no hearings would occur until after January 20, 2017, when the next president takes office. The 11 members are Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, Iowa; Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, Utah; Jeff Sessions, Alabama; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Texas; Jeff Flake, Arizona; David Vitter, Louisiana; David Perdue, Georgia; and Thom Tillis, North Carolina. After Garland's nomination, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his position that the Senate would not confirm any Supreme Court nomination from Obama. Garland's nomination is currently pending before the Senate.
Clinton called on Congress to confirm Garland to the court during Obama's presidency, and it has been speculated that the Senate may consider this nomination during the lame-duck session following the election. Clinton did not commit to re-nominating Garland if he fails to win confirmation during Obama's term.
From the beginning of her presidential candidacy, Clinton stated that she would like to nominate justices who would overturn the decision in Citizens United v. FEC, a case allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Clinton also voiced support for judges who would vote favorably regarding abortion rights, unions, affirmative action, same-sex marriage, and President Obama's Clean Power Plan and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program. Clinton also stated that she would look for a nominee who represents the diversity of the country and has professional experience outside of working for large law firms and serving as a judge.
The following is a list of individuals who were mentioned in various news accounts as the most likely potential nominees for a Supreme Court appointment under Clinton. Many of these individuals were also Supreme Court candidates during the presidency of Barack Obama.D.C. Circuit
Merrick Garland (b. 1952)
Sri Srinivasan (b. 1967)
Patricia Millett (b. 1963)
Jane L. Kelly (b. 1964)
Jacqueline Nguyen (b. 1965)
Paul J. Watford (b. 1967)
Lucy H. Koh (b. 1968), United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar (b. 1972), Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
Goodwin Liu (b. 1970), Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
Barack Obama (b. 1961), 44th President of the United States
Cory Booker (b. 1969), D-New Jersey
Amy Klobuchar (b. 1960), D-Minnesota