In this Oct. 8, 2010, photo, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather for a group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. Seated from left to right are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing, from left are: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. A couple of angry dissents aside, the Supreme Court has shown a remarkable degree of consensus in the nearly two dozen opinions issued so far this term. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  National Journal

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If you want an idea of who might be a future Supreme Court justice, look no further than the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Court not only has an important role in shaping laws in the U.S. — the bench's majority conservative judges have weakened many federal government policies — but also serves as a launching pad for many future Supreme Court justices. Of the nine members of the high court, four were elevated from the D.C. Appeals Court.

On Tuesday, President Obama nominated three more lawyers to fill vacancies on the Appeals Court: Georgetown Law professor Cornelia Pillard, federal District Judge David Frederick, and appellate lawyer Patricia Millett.

Since the end of World War II, five judges from the D.C Circuit Court have been elevated to the Supreme Court, four of whom were nominated by Republican presidents.

Ronald Reagan tried and failed twice at nominating two judges from the Appeals Court to fill vacancies on the high court in 1987: Douglas Ginsburg withdrew his nomination because of earlier marijuana use, and Robert Bork was blocked by the Senate because of his conservative ideology. Reagan eventually settled on current Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was confirmed by the Senate 97-0.

Democratic presidents, seeking diversity, often look outside the District circuit. Obama nominated then-U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan and then-2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Obama once tried to nominate Kagan to the D.C. Circuit Court, but her nomination was never voted on by the Senate.

Here's a look at those five justices who were elevated from the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia since the end of World War II:

Warren E. Burger

(AP Photo/John Rous)

Burger was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and served in that capacity for 13 years. He was elevated from the Court by Richard Nixon in 1969, taking over the spot left vacant by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the man behind many of the pivotal Supreme Court cases of the mid-century. Burger was known a major critic of Warren's judicial stances.

Antonin Scalia

(Photo/Stephen Masker)

Rising to prominence in the judicial world in the early 1980s, Scalia turned down a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago to secure a spot on the D.C. Court later in 1982 by Ronald Reagan.

His witty arguments, which are now on constant display in today's Supreme Court, quickly gained the attention of the Reagan administration. When Burger announced his plans to retire in 1986, Reagan nominated Associate Justice William Rehnquist to become chief justice and nominated Scalia to fill his role. Reagan passed up an opportunity to nominate Bork, siding with the younger Scalia who didn't have as much of a paper trail.

Clarence Thomas

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

After Bork retired from the D.C. court, George H.W. Bush nominated Thomas to fill the vacancy in 1989. Two years later, Bush nominated Thomas to the high court after Justice Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement, replacing the only African-American on the court.

During the confirmation process to the Supreme Court, allegations arose that Thomas had once sexually harassed a coworker, Anita Hill. His nomination moved forward from the Judiciary Committee with a split vote and he was confirmed by the Senate with a 52 to 48 vote, the narrowest positive confirmation vote of the 20th century.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the D.C. Appeals Court in 1980, where she served for 13 years. Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg in 1993 to fill the spot left vacant by retiring Justice Byron White. Though her confirmation process had its rocky moments when Ginsburg refused to answers on her specific positions, she was easily confirmed by the Senate.

John Roberts

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

When George W. Bush nominated Roberts to the D.C. Appeals Court in 2001, Senate Democrats refused to conduct confirmation hearings because of his conservative leanings. It wasn't until Republicans retook the Senate in 2003 that Roberts was confirmed by the body.

Two years later, Roberts filled the first Supreme Court vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer was confirmed in 1994. Roberts was originally nominated by Bush to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But when Rehnquist died months later, Bush withdrew Roberts' nomination and put his name forward to become the next chief justice. When his nomination came to the Senate floor, 22 Democrats voted against Roberts.

Warren E. Burger

(AP Photo/John Rous)

Burger was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and served in that capacity for 13 years. He was elevated from the Court by Richard Nixon in 1969, taking over the spot left vacant by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the man behind many of the pivotal Supreme Court cases of the mid-century. Burger was known a major critic of Warren's judicial stances.

Antonin Scalia

(Photo/Stephen Masker)

Rising to prominence in the judicial world in the early 1980s, Scalia turned down a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago to secure a spot on the D.C. Court later in 1982 by Ronald Reagan.

His witty arguments, which are now on constant display in today's Supreme Court, quickly gained the attention of the Reagan administration. When Burger announced his plans to retire in 1986, Reagan nominated Associate Justice William Rehnquist to become chief justice and nominated Scalia to fill his role. Reagan passed up an opportunity to nominate Bork, siding with the younger Scalia who didn't have as much of a paper trail.

Clarence Thomas

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

After Bork retired from the D.C. court, George H.W. Bush nominated Thomas to fill the vacancy in 1989. Two years later, Bush nominated Thomas to the high court after Justice Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement, replacing the only African-American on the court.

During the confirmation process to the Supreme Court, allegations arose that Thomas had once sexually harassed a coworker, Anita Hill. His nomination moved forward from the Judiciary Committee with a split vote and he was confirmed by the Senate with a 52 to 48 vote, the narrowest positive confirmation vote of the 20th century.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the D.C. Appeals Court in 1980, where she served for 13 years. Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg in 1993 to fill the spot left vacant by retiring Justice Byron White. Though her confirmation process had its rocky moments when Ginsburg refused to answers on her specific positions, she was easily confirmed by the Senate.

John Roberts

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

When George W. Bush nominated Roberts to the D.C. Appeals Court in 2001, Senate Democrats refused to conduct confirmation hearings because of his conservative leanings. It wasn't until Republicans retook the Senate in 2003 that Roberts was confirmed by the body.

Two years later, Roberts filled the first Supreme Court vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer was confirmed in 1994. Roberts was originally nominated by Bush to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But when Rehnquist died months later, Bush withdrew Roberts' nomination and put his name forward to become the next chief justice. When his nomination came to the Senate floor, 22 Democrats voted against Roberts.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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