Let’s say hypothetically one of them was assassinated because someone was upset over their perceived political bent? And that perceived political bent was opposite that of the President who would be presumably picking the successor? What would happen?
Legally, what would happen is that the assassin (if caught) would be tried and hopefully imprisoned, and the President, with advice and consent of the Senate, would nominate a replacement. One may well think that this outcome is less than ideal, but that’s the way it is, and changing it would require a Constitutional amendment.
Exactly. The process might be rather smooth if the president’s party is in control of the Senate. If the other party is in control, it might get rocky. As we recently saw, the opposition party might even refuse to ratify the nominee, hoping to get a different result after the next election. Until recently, the minority party could stop things by using the filibuster, but that option was eliminated in 2017 in order for the Republicans to ratify Gorsuch without having the 60 votes for cloture.
I’m guessing the OP isn’t asking about what technically/legally would happen, but rather what the political consequences would be.
If the President’s party holds the Senate majority, then it all depends on the mercy of the President in question. Say someone shoots Sotomayor during Trump’s presidency. Then it all depends on whether Trump wants to be “classy” and nominate a moderate or liberal to replace the deceased liberal, or whether Trump wants to replace a Sotomayor with a Pryor and swing SCOTUS hard to the right. There is nothing, other than the self-restraint of the POTUS and his party, to prevent them from doing so.
If the President’s party is in the minority in the Senate, then there’s a good chance that any nominee who isn’t of the similar bent as the one that just got assassinated will be blocked. If Senate Democrats were in the majority, and Trump tried to replace a Sotomayor with a Pryor (or even a Garland,) they wouldn’t allow that.
Of the 153 nominees to SCOTUS during the history of the US, only 30 have been unsuccessful, and of those 30 only 11 have been rejected by the Senate, the last one being Robert Bork, nominated by Reagan.
Yes, but none were under circumstances like what the OP describes. And you might technically add Garland to that list too. SCOTUS-nominee-ing has become far more polarized and politicized today than three decades ago.
Antonin Scalia was confirmed 98-0 unanimously by the Senate 32 years ago, at the age of fifty. Today, the fifty-year old version of him would only pass the Senate by a vote of 51-49.