Justice's seat left vacant for Pres. Tyler's last 14 months until bland apolitical 5th nominee confirmed
Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson's seat was vacant 14 months, from his death on Dec. 18, 1843 until Feb. 14, 1845 when President Tyler's FIFTH nominee to the seat was confirmed. Tyler was seen as a Democrat in Whig's clothing, so the Whigs rejected four nominees, and finally confirmed #5, Samuel Nelson, a very unpolitical Democrat and a careful, controversy-averse judge, three weeks before a new Democratic president's inauguration.
(I had said on facebook that the Senate did to Tyler what they did to LBJ, and waited for the next president to appoint someone, but upon carefully rereading my source, that IS true, but that was for ANOTHER, 27-month, vacancy during the same time. For an interesting overview of several such situations, see "At least 14 Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during election years", by Timothy B. Lee on vox.com. The title is misleading because it's really about the converse of that -- the three times the Senate has refused to let a President fill a seat in his last year, and the last two times it has forced appointment of a compromise third-pick. These have been responsible for the most important phases of the Court's recent history: Chief Justice Burger and his center-right leadership of the Court, especially on crime and civil liberties, and the all-powerful swing justices Blackmun and Kennedy, who gave us abortion rights and gay marriage.)
Anyhow, here's Wikipedia's account:
On February 4, 1845, Nelson was nominated by PresidentJohn Tyler to a seat as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States vacated by Smith Thompson. President Tyler tried and failed many times previously to nominate a candidate to fill the seat on the court left vacant by Justice Smith Thompson. The appointment of Samuel Nelson in the last few weeks of his presidency was a very wise choice on behalf of President Tyler. Nelson was a highly respected chief justice on the New York Supreme Court, and during his time on the court Nelson acquired a reputation of fairness and directness. In addition to that, Nelson had a reputation of staying out of partisan conflict. Further reflecting this sensible appointment of President Tyler’s was the fact that it took the Senate only a couple of days to confirm his appointment. Samuel Nelson was the only Supreme Court Justice to be appointed by President Tyler.
Nelson was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 14, 1845, and received his commission immediately. Nelson's confirmation in the last month of Tyler's presidency was a surprise. The unpopular Tyler had failed repeatedly to fill the vacancy left by Thompson, as the Whig-controlled Senate rejected his nominations of John C. Spencer, Reuben Walworth, Edward King and John M. Read. The Whigs found Nelson acceptable because, although he was a Democrat, he had a reputation as a careful and uncontroversial jurist.
Nelson served as a Justice for 27 years, until his retirement on November 28, 1872. His tenure was generally viewed as unremarkable. Justice Nelson arrived on the Supreme Court in 1845, at a time when the Court was composed mainly of Jackson appointees. Over the course of his twenty-seven years on the Court, Nelson upheld his reputation for being a fair and respectable judge. As a result of Nelson’s non-partisan nature, he wrote mostly uncontroversial opinions. Justice Nelson was a constitutionally conservative Democrat. He could also be described as a judicial minimalist, meaning he frequently took a moderate stance in cases offering a small, case-specific interpretation of the law and placed a heavy emphasis on precedent. -- Wikipedia