On August 30, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as an Associate Justice to the United States Supreme Court, beginning what would become a 24-year career as a judge and one of the most-noted liberal voices on our nation’s highest court. Nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Marshall became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, a milestone that capped his illustrious legal career and his lifelong fight for equality and civil rights. In 2016, in honor of National African American History Month, the Harris County Law Library created a digital exhibit celebrating the life and legacy of Justice Marshall highlighting his career as a civil rights attorney, Solicitor General and Supreme Court justice. Being nominated to the highest court is an accomplishment in and of itself, but to survive the arduous confirmation process is a true test in perseverance and a sign of one's worthiness.
Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution gives the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the power to nominate persons to the Supreme Court. The appointment itself is just one part of a complex process that culminates, in most instances, with the swearing in of a new Supreme Court justice. It begins with the pre-hearing stage, which is investigative in nature, with the nominee responding to detailed questions posed by members of the Senate's Committee on the Judiciary seeking biographical, professional, and financial information. The American Bar Association, through its Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, also conducts its own independent, impartial evaluation of the candidate, focusing on his/her professional qualifications and competence as well as the nominee’s integrity and judicial temperament. The ABA does not consider the nominee’s political affiliation or ideology in its evaluation. The investigative stage is followed by the hearing stage at which the nominee testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. This has been the practice since 1955. The hearings consist of statements by the chair and other members of the committee as well as an opening statement by the nominee. Questioning by the committee ensues. These hearings serve many purposes, including enlightening those members of the Senate who may still be undecided and emphasizing certain issues. Public witnesses are also invited to appear. After the public hearings, the committee meets with the nominee privately in a closed door committee session. The final step is the reporting of the recommendation to the full Senate.
Justice Marshall was confirmed by the Senate with a vote of 69 yeas and 11 nos. You can access the Senate's report in the Congressional Record at the new service provided by the United States Government Publishing Office, Govinfo. Additional articles about Thurgood Marshall's confirmation can be found in Harvard Black Letter Journal available here at the Law Library through HeinOnline. Check out our previous blog post for information on how to access HeinOnline via your own mobile device.
To learn more about the United States Supreme Court Nomination and Confirmation process, please see:
- Supreme Court Appointment Process: Consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee
- Supreme Court Nominations Research Guide from Georgetown Law Library
- Supreme Court Nominations: present-1789
On September 4, you will have the opportunity to follow the confirmation hearings held by the Senate's Committee on the Judiciary as public hearings are scheduled to begin regarding nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. Check out the Committee's website for nomination resources.