Whenever a Supreme Court Justice leaves the bench--as Justice David Souter said on May 1 he would do--it causes tumult. As President Barack Obama prepares to name a replacement, his opponents gird for an attack. The Senate, which must confirm the nominee, leans heavily in Obama's favor. But between committee hearings, interest-group lobbying and the occasional scandal, any Supreme Court nomination can be an arduous process.
President John Tyler suffered the most rebuffs; in 1844-45, he presented the same five candidates for the court a total of nine times. (Only one was confirmed.) President Lyndon Johnson was snubbed in 1968 when his nomination of Justice Abe Fortas as Chief Justice was filibustered so heavily that Fortas withdrew. As a Senator, Obama joined an unsuccessful filibuster against Samuel Alito in 2006. Even the legendary Louis Brandeis faced strong opposition over his progressive rulings (combined with an undercurrent of anti-Semitism).
In 1987, conservative judge Robert Bork endured such virulent criticism--his video-rental records were published in search of dirty secrets--that to this day, a nominee sidelined by activists is said to have been "borked." Clarence Thomas' 1991 bid was nearly scuppered when former colleague Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment; their lurid testimony was aired live on C-SPAN for a mesmerized American public.
Obama's opposition to Bush's nominations may earn him some backlash from Senate Republicans. Souter (who received a relatively easy confirmation in 1990) is viewed as a liberal judge, so an Obama replacement may not upset the court's balance. Time will tell if that's enough to avoid getting borked.