The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Four New Justices in Six Years

We haven't seen this much rapid turnover in five decades.


According to reports, Justice Breyer will step down at the end of this term, or when his successor is confirmed. In all likelihood, the Supreme Court will have added four new members in the span of six years. Justice Gorsuch was confirmed in April 2017, Kavanaugh in October 2018, Barrett in October 2020, and now Breyer's replacement in 2022.

The last time the Supreme Court saw such a rapid turnover was during President Nixon's tenure. Chief Justice Burger was confirmed in 1969, Justice Blackmun in 1970, and Powell/Rehnquist were confirmed in 1971.

Still, FDR set the modern-day record. Between 1937 and 1943, Roosevelt made nine appointments: Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Stone, Byrnes, Jackson, and Rutledge. The ultimate record, however, belongs to the OG GW. President Washington appointed five Justices in 1789, and six more during the rest of his tenure.

Let us not forget that Justice Breyer was the junior justice between July 1994 and January 2006. We may never again see a court with so much stability. Meanwhile, Justice Barrett was the junior justice for about two terms. Soon, someone else will have to answer the door.