This Isn't the First Election Year SCOTUS Nomination

There's been a Supreme Court nomination in an election year before. In June 1968, Chief Justice Earl Warren submitted his resignation to President Lyndon Johnson, who nominated Associate Justice Abe Fortas to replace him. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Justice Antonin Scalia's death isn't the first time a president has faced a Supreme Court vacancy during an election year.

In June 1968, just weeks after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and days after Robert Kennedy was gunned down, Chief Justice Earl Warren submitted his resignation to President Lyndon Johnson. An appointee of President Dwight Eisenhower, Warren may have been a Republican appointee but he had emerged as a liberal champion and conservative bete noir during his tenure on the court, overseeing landmark rulings on school prayer, school desegregation and the rights of the accused. A nemesis of fellow Californian Richard Nixon, Warren didn't want the likely Republican presidential nominee to pick his replacement. Johnson accepted the Warren's resignation and promptly named Associate Justice Abe Fortas to replace him as chief.

But Fortas ran into trouble. Southern Democratic Senators thought him too liberal and he faced questions about monies he'd accepted from American University's law school for speaking gigs. That might seem unobjectionable, but the funds were raised from private sources which led to questions of influence peddling. Fortas fought hard to save his nomination, becoming the first nominee to appear before the Senate to testify for his nomination. But the hearings became a mess with questions being raised about whether Fortas consulted with LBJ about political matters while serving on the bench.

Republicans launched a filibuster to delay a vote and enough conservative Democrats signed on that the nomination died without a vote. Meanwhile, LBJ nominated Homer Thornberry, an appeals court judge, to take Fortas's associate justice seat, but the Senate never got around to voting on it.[

The following year, President Richard Nixon nominated Warren Burger as Chief Justice and the Senate confirmed him, after which debate broke out over who would replace Fortas as associate justice. Ultimately, Harry Blackmun took the seat in 1970, after the defeat of two Nixon nominees.

Burger served until 1986 when Ronald Reagan nominated Associate Justice William Rehnquist to become the Chief Justice. Reagan also nominated a young jurist, Antonin Scalia, to replace Rehnquist.