Judge John G. Roberts raises his right hand as he is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committe to testify on his confirmation to become the chief justice of the United States, in the Caucus Room of the Senate's Russell office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Sept. 12, 2005. Pablo Martinez Monsivais
John G. Roberts
Chief Justice Roberts is a President George W. Bush nominee, who took his seat at the helm of the court in 2005. The Chief Justice is highly conservative, according to a 2008 University of Chicago study by William Landes and Richard Posner that ranked the voting records of the 43 Supreme Court justices who served from 1937 to 2006. Among other appointments, Justice Roberts served as Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s. Strong Opinion: Chief Justice Roberts argued for the majority in 2008 when the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the painful three-drug cocktail used in most U.S. executions. "(T)he Constitution does not demand the avoidance of all risk of pain in carrying out executions," he wrote.
Antonin Scalia Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Associate Justice Justice Scalia was nominated by President Reagan and the Trenton, N.J., man took his seat in 1986. Justice Scalia’s voting record on ideologically divisive issues ranks him as the third-most conservative justice to sit on the Supreme Court since President Franklin D. Roosevelt ran the White House, according to the University of Chicago study. He is one of five Harvard Law School graduates currently serving on the Supreme Court, and he is the longest serving member. Strong Opinion: When the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that terrorist suspects imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay can fight for their rights in U.S. courts, Justice Scalia dissented, warning that America "will live to regret what the court has done today."
Anthony M. Kennedy Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Anthony M. Kennedy
Associate Justice Justice Kennedy is the second of two President Reagan nominees currently sitting on the Supreme Court. Although he is often touted as the most moderate of the current nine, his record since taking a seat in 1988 shows he is more likely than not to vote conservative on divisive civil liberties issues. Justice Kennedy is one of just two court members to come from western states, both of whom are from California. Strong Opinion: Justice Kennedy disagreed with Justice Scalia over the Guantanamo prisoner rights case, voting alongside the court’s more liberal justices. "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times," he wrote.
Justice Clarence Thomas Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Associate Justice Justice Thomas ranks as the most conservative justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court since World War II, according to the Chicago study. He is the only currently serving justice to have been nominated by President George H. W. Bush, and he took his seat in 1991. Justice Thomas, who was born in Pin Point, Ga., near the city of Savannah, is also the court’s only southern statesman. Strong Opinion: When the Supreme Court decided in 2010 that young offenders serving life prison terms must have “a meaningful opportunity to obtain release” if they haven't killed, Justice Thomas disagreed. He criticized the majority for imposing “its own sense of morality and retributive justice” on voters.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Ken Heinen
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Associate Justice Justice Ginsburg is the least conservative member of the Supreme Court, according to the Chicago study, and one of only four current justices who tend to vote liberally on civil justice issues. Justice Ginsburg was nominated to her position by President Bill Clinton and has sat since 1993. The Brooklyn native is the eldest Supreme Court justice, born in 1933. The Columbia Law School graduate was a professor of law and has served as General Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. Strong Opinion: When the court decided in 2007 to uphold a federal ban on "partial-birth" abortion, Justice Ginsburg dissented. She said the 5-4 majority position "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court.”
Stephen G. Breyer Jonathan Ernst
Stephen G. Breyer
Associate Justice Justice Breyer was nominated to his position by President Clinton and took his seat in 1994. He regularly votes liberally on social justice issues. Like most justices, the San Francisco, Calif., native graduated from Harvard Law School. Among other roles, he served on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and has taught law in universities around the world. Strong Opinion: Justice Breyer disagreed with a 6-3 majority decision in 2010 that giving advice, even on peaceful issues, to blacklisted groups including Hamas or Hezbollah can qualify as support for terrorism. "Not even the 'serious and deadly problem' of international terrorism can require automatic forfeiture of First Amendment rights," he said, reading his dissent from the bench.
Samuel Alito Jr. Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.
Associate Justice Justice Alito is a highly conservative justice according to his voting record. Together, he, justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas, are five of the top ten most-conservative Supreme Court justices to ever serve in their positions. Justice Alito was nominated by President George W. Bush and he took his seat in 2006. One of two justices from New Jersey, Justice Alito has a Yale law degree and served a number of posts at the U.S. Department of Justice. Strong Opinion: Justice Alito wrote for the majority in overturning a Chicago law that limited handgun ownership. Despite "doomsday proclamations, (the decision) does not imperil every law regulating firearms," he wrote, adding that jurisdictions already have laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
In this July 16, 2009 file photo, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the fourth day of her confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington J. Scott Applewhite
Associate Justice Justice Sotomayor was the first of President Barack Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees. The Bronx, N.Y., native graduated from Yale Law School and was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. She served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals until her Supreme Court nomination in 2009. Justice Sotomayor is the first Hispanic to serve on the court. Strong Opinion: The Supreme Court decided in 2011 that an American Muslim man’s constitutional rights were not violated when he was arrested without charge and held for 16 days post-9/11 under a material witness law. Justice Sotomayer disagreed and wrote that the 5-3 majority ruling “is a narrow one premised on the existence of a (warrant) that, at the very least, is questionable.”
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington Monday. Ms. Kagan faced tough criticism from Republicans, but President Barack Obama's pick is expected to win bipartisan approval for the lifetime job. JASON REED
Associate Justice The second of President Barack Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees, Justice Kagan took her seat on the court in 2010. She is both the most recent addition to the court and its youngest member, born in New York City in 1960. She is a philosophy master from Oxford and graduated from Harvard Law School, where she was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. Justice Kagan was associate counsel to President Clinton from 1995-1999, and became a dean of Harvard Law School in 2003. President Obama nominated her as Solicitor General of the United States, a position she held until she took her seat on the Supreme Court. Strong Opinion: ‘Obamacare’ is the most significant case the court’s newest member has heard since her appointment.