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Thomas Confirmation Hearings

THOMAS CONFIRMATION HEARINGS

THOMAS CONFIRMATION HEARINGS. On 28 June 1991, Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court, sent his resignation to President George H. W. Bush. Three days later, the president nominated Clarence Thomas, another African American, to fill the vacancy. But while Marshall had been a leading liberal on the Court and a champion of minorities and the poor, Thomas held much more conservative views. Born into a poor Georgia family, he graduated from Yale Law School in 1974 and rose in Missouri legal and political circles until moving to Washington, D.C., with Senator John Danforth. Thomas headed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1982 until


1990, when President Bush named him to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The earliest phase of the nomination hearings centered on Thomas's political, social, and judicial views, his critics inquiring particularly into his lukewarm attitudes toward affirmative action and other social programs aimed at minority groups. The nominee maintained a discreetly noncommittal attitude when questioned on such controversial matters as abortion. The Senate Judiciary Committee was evenly divided and, in late September, sent the nomination forward with no recommendation. Before the full Senate could act, however, an explosive new element was injected into the debate.

Anita Hill, a young African American law professor at the University of Oklahoma, alleged that while working for Thomas she had been harassed by him. She charged that Thomas repeatedly addressed crude and sexually explicit remarks to her and made persistent and unwanted sexual advances. Hill made her allegations in televised testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and much of the nation was transfixed by her dramatic charges and by Thomas's vehement and angry denial of every allegation (he called the proceedings "a high tech lynching"). Both principals were highly articulate and both seemed honest, but it was clear that one of them was not telling the truth. Proponents of Thomas felt that the Hill testimony was part of an orchestrated campaign to discredit a conservative. Opponents, on the other hand, believed that Hill's charges were convincing and damaging and that the Judiciary Committee (made up entirely of white males) was insensitive at best and harshly aggressive toward Hill at worst—Senators Arlen Spector, Orrin Hatch, and Alan Simpson came in for particular criticism because of their overtly hostile attitude toward Hill.

On 15 October 1991, the full Senate voted to confirm Thomas by a vote of 52–48, the narrowest confirmation vote of the twentieth century. Thomas took the oath of office on 23 October. One of the results of the hearings was a heightened consciousness of the problem of sexual harassment and a greater willingness on the part of many women to reveal their own experiences and, in some instances, to bring formal charges.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Danforth, John. Resurrection: The Confirmation of Clarence Thomas. New York: Viking, 1994.

Hill, Anita. Speaking Truth to Power. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Mayer, Jane, and Jill Abramson. Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

United States Senate. Nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States: Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary. 4 volumes. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1991.

David W.Levy

See alsoConfirmation by the Senate .

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Brandeis Confirmation Hearings

BRANDEIS CONFIRMATION HEARINGS

BRANDEIS CONFIRMATION HEARINGS. On 28 January 1916, President Woodrow Wilson electrified the nation by nominating Louis D. Brandeis to replace the deceased Joseph R. Lamar as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Brandeis, a Boston attorney, was a nationally known progressive reformer and the first Jew ever nominated to the Court. Wilson, who had come to rely on Brandeis's advice on domestic issues, was willing to face the inevitable political storm. He also recognized that Brandeis's appointment would help win two important constituencies in the approaching presidential election: Jewish voters and progressives who had voted in 1912 for Theodore Roosevelt.

Conservative leaders and newspapers exploded. They claimed that Brandeis was a radical and an unprofessional self-promoter who lacked a "judicial temperament." The religious issue was not emphasized publicly, but it probably influenced some to oppose the nomination. Progressives were jubilant at Wilson's announcement. For more than a decade, Brandeis had been in the forefront of crusades on behalf of labor, conservation, the antitrust movement, and consumer rights, earning the respect and admiration of many Americans sympathetic to progressive reform.

A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings on 9 February, and every aspect of Brandeis's career was scrutinized by numerous friendly and unfriendly witnesses. The culmination of what can be seen as a symbolic struggle between conservative and progressive elements in American society came with the subcommittee voting for confirmation by 3 to 2 along party lines (1 April), and the full Judiciary Committee voting for Brandeis 10 to 8, again along strict party lines (24 May). In the Senate, on 1 June, after five months of vigorous debate, the nominee was confirmed by a vote of 47 to 22; only one Democrat voted against Brandeis, while three progressive Republicans voted with the majority. Brandeis began his twenty-three years of distinguished service on the Court by taking the oath of office on 5 June.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Strum, Philippa. Louis D. Brandeis: Justice for the People. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Todd, A. L. Justice on Trial: The Case of Louis D. Brandeis. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.

United States Senate. Hearings before the Sub-Committee of the Committee of the Judiciary … on the Nomination of Louis D. Brandeis to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. 64th Congress, 1st Session. 2 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1916.

David W.Levy

See alsoAnti-Semitism ; Progressive Movement .

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Bork Confirmation Hearings

BORK CONFIRMATION HEARINGS

BORK CONFIRMATION HEARINGS. President Ronald Reagan, long a critic of liberal and activist judges who "made law" rather than simply applying the original intentions of the founders, repeatedly expressed his hope for placing conservative and self-restrained justices on the Supreme Court. When Lewis Powell, a moderate conservative, announced his retirement, Reagan sent forward a nomination fully embodying this hope. Sixty-year-old Robert Heron Bork had a distinguished career as a law professor at Yale (1962–1973, 1977–1981), as U.S. solicitor general (1973–1977), and as a federal appeals judge


for the District of Columbia (1982–1988). During the Watergate hearings, Bork's two superiors decided to resign rather than carry out President Richard Nixon's order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Bork, however, earned some notoriety for his willingness to carry out the president's order.

The televised confirmation hearings were bitter, spirited, and harsh. Bork's supporters pointed to his record of service and his brilliance as a theorist, writer, and judge. Opponents, quoting his judicial opinions and other writings, insisted that his elevation would endanger civil rights, the right to privacy, the legality of abortion, and the constitutional protections of nonpolitical speech. On 27 October, the Senate defeated the nomination on a largely party-line vote (Democrats, 52 to 2 against; Republicans, 40 to 6 for). The nominee's angry supporters coined a new verb: to be "borked" is to be unfairly treated, to have one's views misrepresented. In 1988, Bork resigned his judgeship to become a scholar-in-residence at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bork, Robert H. The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law. New York, Free Press, 1990.

Bronner, Ethan. Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America. New York: Norton, 1989.

David W.Levy

See alsoConfirmation by the Senate ; Supreme Court ; Thomas Confirmation Hearings .

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"Bork Confirmation Hearings." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bork-confirmation-hearings