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Confirming their Hatred of Thurgood Marshall

A curious thing is happening during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan. Rather than attacking Kagan, Republicans are attacking Thurgood Marshall. Why are they attacking Marshall? After all, the Senate already confirmed Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967, and he died in 1993. But they brought him up anyway because Kagan worked as a clerk for him 20 years ago.

Thurgood Marshall made history as the first black Supreme Court justice. But even before that, he had reserved his place in history as the civil rights lawyer who argued the famous Brown vs. Board of Education case before the court he would later join. Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court, many decisively — Brown garnered a 9-0 vote, even though it was overturning a previous Supreme Court decision. Marshall is also on the Episcopal Church’s list of “Holy Women and Holy Men” which literally means that he is a saint. He has also been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a postage stamp, a broadway show, and an airport (which current GOP chair Michael Steele helped name after Marshall).

But that didn’t stop Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) from saying “Justice Marshall’s judicial philosophy is not what I would consider to be mainstream.” Jeff Sessions (R-AL) called Marhsall a “well-known activist” and John Cornyn (R-TX) labeled Marshall “a judicial activist” (although Republicans had difficulty naming any specific cases that were examples of Marshall’s purported activism) . Chuck Grassley (R-IA) feels that Marhsall’s legal view “does not comport with the proper role of a judge or judicial method.” And Republicans circulated reports that “Justice Marshall endorsed ‘judicial activism,’ supported abortion rights, and believed the death penalty was unconstitutional.” Clearly, today’s Republicans would not have confirmed Marshall to the Supreme Court.

Are Republicans just trying to appeal to racists? Because I suspect they already have that vote sewn up.



  1. Sammy wrote:

    IK, I see this as politics as usual. The sitting president nominates a judge for the Supreme Court and the opposition party, even if confirmation is a foregone conclusion, grandstands with every possible objection, regardless of the stretch. And since Kagan has no judicial record to attack, they’re attacking the closest judge related to her past. And yes, they’re appealing to the racists in their base, because that’s what they do.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  2. Tom wrote:

    The first rule of clerkships is law students do not reject offers of clerkships. Had Rehnquist offered her a spot as his token liberal, as he did to encourage spirited discussion in his chambers, would she now be seen as a far right conservative? The fact is she probably knows more about judging after two years of clerking than most judges do.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  3. Morrius wrote:

    It gets better. The GOP senators who attacked Marshall for being an activist judge couldn’t name any decisions he made that proved it.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink
  4. starluna wrote:

    I’m not surprised at Kyle’s argument. He doesn’t believe that civil rights is mainstream.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    Thank you for making me look up the airport thing. I flew out of BWI for years and never knew it was named after Marshall.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Starluna, thanks for helping me find an additional article on the BWI thing. Otherwise I wouldn’t have read that current GOP chair Michael Steele helped name the airport after Marshall (I updated my post with this information).

    And Morrius, thanks for the link — I added it to the post as well.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink