Barack Obama's Supreme Court Nominees

List of Obama Choices Confirmed by the U.S. Senate

President Barack Obama has successfully chosen two U.S. Supreme Court justices during his two terms in the White House, and he nominated a third in what was seen as a rare opportunity to sway the philosophical and political leanings of the panel.

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Obama was the first president since Ronald Reagan to nominate three Supreme Court justices, a third of the nine-member panel. He chose his first two nominees in 2009 and 2010, and attempted in 2016 to get a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly in February 2016, appointed to the court before his last day in the White House.

Here's a look at the two Obama nominees who made it to the highest court in the land, both of whom are women and were confirmed by the U.S. Senate. His third choice, Merrick Garland, was unlikely to get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee before Obama left office because most Republicans felt the task of choosing a replacement for Scalia should be left to the president's successor.

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President Barack Obama announces federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor is his choice to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court in 2009.
President Barack Obama announces federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor is his choice to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court in 2009. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Obama first chance to make his mark on the U.S. Supreme Court came in April 2009, when Justice David Souter announced at the age of 69 that he would retire.

Souter's decision was clearly influenced by Obama's election a year earlier. The moderate justice knew his retirement would allow the president a chance to choose someone of a similar political bent.

Obama's first U.S. Supreme Court nominee was Sonia Sotomayor, who would become the first Hispanic member and third woman justice to serve on the high court. She has been described as being "liberal in philosophy" but "largely mainstream in her decision-making." Legal experts described her as being "moderately liberal."

Related Story: A History of Women on the Supreme Court

The Bronx-born Sotomayor was confirmed by a vote of 68 to 31 in the Senate following a battle that lasted two and a half months. All of the chamber's Democrats voted to confirm her, but only nine of the 40 Republicans supported her nomination.

Sotomayor earned degrees from Princeton University in 1976 and Yale Law School in 1979. She was tapped by Republican President George H.W. Bush for a federal judgeship in New York.

Said Obama in nominating her:

"It's a measure of her qualities and her qualifications that Judge Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. District Court by a Republican President, George H.W. Bush, and promoted to the Federal Court of Appeals by a Democrat, Bill Clinton. Walking in the door she would bring more experience on the bench, and more varied experience on the bench, than anyone currently serving on the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed."

Obama nominated her to the court on May 26, 2009. Sotomayor was sworn in on Aug. 8, 2009.

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Elena Kagan

Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Obama's second chance to select a member of the high court came when Justice John Paul Stevens announced his resignation in April 2010. The president nominated Elena Kagan, the former dean of the Harvard Law School and solicitor general of the United States described as a "consensus-building liberal."

Said Obama in nominating her:

"Elena is respected and admired not just for her intellect and record of achievement, but also for her temperament - her openness to a broad array of viewpoints; her habit, to borrow a phrase from Justice Stevens, 'of understanding before disagreeing'; her fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder."

The U.S. Senate confirmed Kagan in August 2010 by a vote of 63 to 37. Only one member of Obama's Democratic Party opposed her nomination. Five Republicans crossed the aisle to support her.

The New York-born Kagan earned degrees from Princeton in 1981, Oxford in 1983 and Harvard Law School in 1986. She clerked for the legendary Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall during the 1987 Term.

Obama nominated Kagan on May 10, 2010. She took her seat on August 7, 2010, becoming only the fourth woman justice on the Supreme Court.