As Congress returns today from ski slopes, European fact-finding missions and the campaign trail, Senate Judiciary Committee members confront a crowded docket of judicial nominations -- starting at the top with Supreme Court nominee Anthony M. Kennedy.

Kennedy's nomination should be quickly dispatched Wednesday, when the committee is scheduled to vote on -- and is expected to give its resounding approval to -- the federal appeals court judge from California.

That will be the easy part.

Besides Kennedy, the Reagan administration has 27 other judges-in-waiting before the Senate: nine appeals court nominees and 18 district court nominees. President Reagan is expected to point to the issue in his State of the Union address tonight, urging quick confirmation of Kennedy and his would-be brethren.

Justice Department officials and some committee Republicans decry the nominations pileup as an unprecedented election-year backlog, noting that there was only one unconfirmed nominee at the end of 1983, two in 1979, and none in 1975 and 1971.

"Some {nominations} have been up there for months," said department spokesman Terry Eastland. "It is rather hard to imagine how a nomination could be pending for as long as those have been. One of them has been up there for almost a year now. It would seem -- just as a management issue -- they could be dealt with more quickly than that."

Committee Democrats counter that they have been working diligently to process nominations, but that they were unavoidably slowed by hearings on Supreme Court nominees.

"We really sort of processed everyone who came in before Bork," except for controversial nominees, said committee spokesman Pete Smith. "Then, of course, with the Supreme Court situation -- that tended to slow everything up and we are now starting to plow through some of the pending nominations."

In addition, Smith noted, the backup looks worse because the administration sent over a heap of nominations at the end of the year, when there was no time for the Senate to act on them. Of the 28 pending nominations, half were made in November and December -- including some whose review by the American Bar Association had not yet been completed, as is customary before nominations are made official.

"There was no time to act on those nominees," said Smith, terming the timing "an effort . . . to improve their own track record and presumably diminish ours."

In a testy session last month, Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said accusations that the Democratic committee majority was stalling administration nominees were "malarkey" and "tripe."

"It is my intention to give everyone that has been brought before us an opportunity to be voted up or down," Biden said.

Here are some of the more interesting nominations to watch this year:

Associate Attorney General Stephen S. Trott, the department's No. 3 official, nominated to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California and already approved by the committee. A final Senate vote on Trott has been held up in a dispute between the Justice Department and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) over access to department documents on whether an independent counsel should have been appointed to investigate Faith R. Whittlesey, the departing U.S. ambassador to Switzerland. Justice has refused to turn over the documents.

Bernard H. Siegan, a University of San Diego law professor whose 9th Circuit nomination has been pending since last Feb. 2. Siegan's controversial views on constitutional law -- for example, that Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark school desegregation case, was decided on the wrong grounds -- guarantee a bitter confirmation fight along the lines of the battle last year over Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork.

A hearing is expected late next month, but some administration officials concede privately that the nomination of Siegan, a friend of Attorney General Edwin Meese III, is likely to be killed in committee.

David C. Treen, the former Louisiana governor nominated in July to the 5th Circuit. Civil rights groups are gearing up to fight Treen, whose hearing has not been scheduled, because of his role in writing the state's voter redistricting plan.

Susan Liebeler, chairman of the International Trade Commission, nominated March 23 to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears cases involving international trade, patents and other specialized topics. Questions were raised at Liebeler's hearings about what were described as her extreme free-trade views and her judicial temperament.

The committee is to take up Liebeler's nomination at its next business meeting.

Whoever is nominated to fill the D.C. Circuit seat left vacant by the resignation of Bork, effective Feb. 5. Bork's departure leaves the influential 12-member circuit roughly divided six to five between conservatives and liberals.

Administration officials want to move quickly to try to fill the vacancy, but face constraints, including complaints by the local bar that there are few District lawyers on the court, and oversight hearings Feb. 2 by Sen. Kennedy on the lack of women and minorities appointed to the federal bench by the Reagan administration.

And that's not all. There are 26 other vacancies for which the administration has not yet submitted nominees.