Looking Back – Thurgood Marshall Confirmed to the United States Supreme Court

Justice Thurgood Marshall c1975.png

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:

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.


Latest & Greatest – Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik  Published by Dey St., an Imprint of William Morrow Publishers  KF 8745 .G56 C37 2015

By Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Published by Dey St., an Imprint of William Morrow Publishers

KF 8745 .G56 C37 2015

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oft-described unstoppable, passionate, and fiery United States Supreme Court justice, has become something of a cult figure among law students. Empowered by her rage at civil rights violations and the lack of gender equality, these students created a new persona for her, the Notorious R.B.G., and showed their appreciation of her by posting tributes on social media. From this media storm comes Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a new book by the law student who created the Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr and the journalist who interviewed Justice Ginsburg for MSNBC. An illuminating, yet humorous, look into the life, losses, and successes of this diminutive and, at times, underestimated jurist, Notorious RBG captures the essence of this remarkable woman who became only the second woman to serve on our nation’s highest court.

Always a champion of women’s rights and gender equality, Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew first-hand the difficulties that women faced in the workplace and in institutions of higher learning and the pressures associated with gender inequality. She was one of nine women in her class at Harvard Law School and had difficulty getting a job, even though she graduated at the top of her class from Columbia Law School. She was the first woman to teach full-time at Rutgers School of Law and later became Columbia’s first tenured female professor. While at Columbia, she even helped file a class action lawsuit against the university and continued to volunteer her time with the ACLU.

If it is true that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, then the legal writings of Ruth Bader Ginsburg can truly cut to the heart of an issue. Known for her dissents, Justice Ginsburg has always remained steadfast to her beliefs and her desire to correct injustices. Notorious RBG also features excerpts and analyses of some of Justice Ginsburg’s most significant briefs, opinions, and dissents:

  • Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971) (a gender discrimination case in which a mother was not entitled to possessions owned by deceased son) ;
  • Struck v. Secretary of Defense, 460 F 2d 1372 (1971) (case in which an air force nurse refused to get abortion as required by Air Force regulations) ;
  • United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996) (case involving the refusal of Virginia Military Institute to admit women);
  • Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007) (case that upheld partial-birth abortion ban);
  • Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company 550 U.S. 618 (2014) (an employment discrimination case based on gender) ; and
  • Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013) (case dealing with the Voting Rights Act).

 The authors also look into her sixty-year relationship with her beloved husband Marty, who passed away in 2010, her unlikely friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, her ideological opposite, her perfectionism when drafting opinions, her workouts with her personal trainer, and, of course, those lacy jabots she wears on the bench.

There is so much more to Ruth Bader Ginsburg than meets the eye. Learn about her in Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and find out why she is such an Internet sensation.

By the way, in case you didn't know, today (March 15) is RBG's 85 birthday. How fitting that it comes during National Women's History Month.