Thurgood Marshall

Supreme Court Longevity An Issue, As Recent Justices Have Stayed Much Longer Than Average, Including Contested Nominee Clarence Thomas

In the midst of the controversy over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is the reality of how long he might serve.

There has been a trend whereby recent Supreme Court Justices serve much longer than historically traditional.

Right now, contested Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed in 1991 despite strong testimony of Anita Hill, has served 27 years on the Court, and is already number 24 in longevity of service out of 113 members of the Court in American history. He will be number 17 in two years and number 13 in four years. In May 2028, he would break the all time record of 36 years and nearly 7 months of Justice William O. Douglas, and Thomas would be just about a month short of age 80, and can be seen as likely, if he stays healthy, to accomplish this goal.

If one just looks at the top fourth of all Supreme Court Justices in longevity, a total of 31 out of 113, all 24 years or more of service, we find the following recent Justices, all appointed since the 1950s, are on the list:

John Paul Stevens
William Brennan
William Rehnquist
Byron White
Anthony Kennedy
Antonin Scalia
Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Sandra Day O’Connor
Harry Blackmun
Stephen Breyer
Thurgood Marshall

In the earlier history of the Supreme Court, the average length of service was about 15 years by comparison.

That is why the idea, proposed by this author two days ago, that a future Supreme Court Justice be limited to an 18 year term, allows for turnover, and prevents dominance by an ideological minority for decades, as now is threatened by Brett Kavanaugh, or another extreme right wing appointment by Donald Trump.

Lying In State And Honor At The US Capitol Rotunda In American History

The Reverend Billy Graham is lying in state and honor at the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC today.

This is a rare event, and Graham is only the fourth private person outside of government to be so honored, along with Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks in 2005, and two police officers who defended the Capitol from a gunman in 1998.

The list of government figures who have been so honored include 11 Presidents; 10 Senators; Soldiers of the various wars of America in the 20th century; and a few other military and government figures.

Henry Clay 1852
Abraham Lincoln 1865
Thaddeus Stevens 1868
Charles Sumner 1874
Henry Wilson 1875
James A. Garfield 1881
John A Logan 1886
William McKinley 1901
Pierre Charles L’Enfant 1909
George Dewey 1917
Unknown Soldiers of World War I 1921
Warren G. Harding 1923
William Howard Taft 1930
John Joseph Pershing 1948
Robert A. Taft 1953
Unknown Soldiers of World War II and the Korean War 1958
John F. Kennedy 1963
Douglas MacArthur 1964
Herbert Clark Hoover 1964
Dwight D. Eisenhower 1969
Everett McKinley Dirksen 1969
J. Edgar Hoover 1972
Lyndon Baines Johnson 1973
Hubert H. Humphrey 1978
Unknown Soldier Of the Vietnam Conflict 1984
Claude Denson Pepper 1989
Jacob Joseph Chestnut and John Michael Gibson (US Capitol Police Officers)
Ronald Wilson Reagan 2004
Rosa Parks 2005
Gerald R. Ford, Jr. 2006-2007
Daniel K. Inouye 2012

Additionally, Salmon P. Chase 1873 in the Senate chamber; Samuel Hooper 1875 in the House chamber; also Thurgood Marshall in 1993, Warren Burger in 1995, and Antonin Scalia in 2016 at the US Supreme Court; as well as Commerce Secretary Ron Brown at the Commerce Department in 1996.

Democratic Party Historical Accomplishments

The Democratic Party has been criticized for the fact that in its 188 year history, it was the party that promoted slavery, segregation, and lynching, being dominated for a long time by its ugly Southern membership.

This cannot be denied, but it is the Democratic Party which has also, in the last century of history, had many historical accomplishments.

Among these are:

First Catholic nominee for President–Alfred E. Smith 1928
First Catholic President elected–John F. Kennedy 1960
First Catholic Vice President elected–Joe Biden 2008
First Jewish nominee for Vice President–Joseph Lieberman 2000
First Jewish Presidential candidate as serious contender–Bernie Sanders 2016
First African American President–Barack Obama 2008
First Woman nominated for Vice President–Geraldine Ferraro 1984
First African American Presidential Contender–Shirley Chisholm 1972
First Woman nominee for President–Hillary Clinton 2016
First woman Secretary of State—Madeleine Albright under Bill Clinton
First Southerner elected President since 1848–Jimmy Carter 1976
Youngest elected President–John F. Kennedy 1960
President who gave us Social Security–Franklin D. Roosevelt 1935
President who gave us Medicare and Medicaid–Lyndon B. Johnson 1965-1966
One Term President who advanced Environmental Causes the most in history–Jimmy Carter 1977-1981
President who gave us ObamaCare–Barack Obama 2010
President who advanced Civil Rights—John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson 1960s
President to appoint first Jewish Supreme Court Justice—Woodrow Wilson 1916 (Louis Brandeis)
President to appoint first woman Jewish Supreme Court Justice—Bill Clinton 1993 (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
President to appoint first African American Supreme Court Justice–Lyndon B. Johnson 1967 (Thurgood Marshall)
President to appoint first Hispanic-Latino Supreme Court Justice—Barack Obama 2009 (Sonia Sotomayor)
President who promoted Containment Foreign Policy with the Soviet Union—Harry Truman
President who promoted concept of international cooperation—Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt
First Woman Speaker Of The House of Representatives–Nancy Pelosi 2007
Most accomplished Congresses, Democratic controlled—-63rd and 64th (1913-1917) under Woodrow Wilson; 73rd and 74th (1933-1937) under Franklin D. Roosevelt; 89th Congress (1965-1967) under Lyndon B. Johnson; 111th Congress (2009-2011) under Barack Obama
Great Supreme Court Justices appointed by Democratic Presidents—Louis Brandeis 1916 by Woodrow Wilson; Hugo Black 1937 by Franklin D. Roosevelt; Felix Frankfurter 1939 by Franklin D. Roosevelt; William O. Douglas 1939 by Franklin D. Roosevelt; Thurgood Marshall 1967 by Lyndon B. Johnson; Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1993 by Bill Clinton; Stephen Breyer 1994 by Bill Clinton

The Changing Supreme Court In 2017: A Move To The Left That Will Last To The 2040s Or Beyond!

With the reality that Democrat Hillary Clinton has a clear lead for the Electoral College, the likelihood of a liberal majority Supreme Court seems more certain in 2017 and beyond.

News that Justice Clarence Thomas might retire at age 68 in the next year is encouraging in that regard, but even if he does not, as his wife has just contended, the likelihood is of FOUR appointments to the Court outside of Thomas, with two of them (Antonin Scalia dead and Anthony Kennedy retiring) being a movement to the left, making at the least a 6-3 Court by 2020. If Thomas also leaves, it would be a 7-2 Court, which would have a long range effect to the 2040s or beyond!

The Supreme Court has had a Republican and conservative majority for 44 years, since 1972, so it is about time to right the balance and make for a revival of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Court, which had an effect for 16 years, and continued to influence, if not control the Court, with the extended service of Justice William Brennan and Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Fortunately, Justice Harry Blackmun, Justice John Paul Stevens, and Justice David Souter, all appointed by Republican Presidents, often joined the few liberals left on the Court, and prevented the Court from going even further Right than it did in those 44 years.

But there is a desperate need for a tilt to the left on so many issues, so that is the most important reason for the election of Hillary Clinton to the White House in November!

24 Years Of Justice Thurgood Marshall; 24 Years Of Justice Clarence Thomas: The Contrast!

Hard to believe, but it has been 24 years since Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush, with Thomas being chosen to replace the first African American on the Court, Thurgood Marshall, who had been selected 24 years earlier (1967), by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Marshall had made it clear that he wanted to stay on the Court until a Democrat was elected President, but despite his desires, his poor health forced him to resign. Marshall stands out as having been a quality member of the Court, one of the top 15 Supreme Court Justices of the 20th century.

Thomas, the second African American in Court history, would face severe attacks on his competency and on charges by Anita Hill that he had sexually harassed her when she worked for him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the 1980s.

The Thomas nomination became a major controversy, and led to the passage of sexual harassment laws affecting all employees in America, both in government and out of government.

It also led to a bitter and close nomination battle, with Thomas winning his seat on the Court by the closest margin in modern history, 52-48.

It caused Thomas to become embittered, and he has expressed this bitterness toward liberals ever since, and he has pledged he will not leave the Court until he is 86 years of age in 2034, doubling his age of 43 when he came to the Court.

Thomas has made his mission on the Court to oppose civil rights and civil liberties wherever he can, despite the fact that he benefited personally from Affirmative Action, and his race helped him to gain his job, even though his accomplishments were far less than Thurgood Marshall. Many well qualified African Americans were passed over for Thomas, because he was an outlier, a conservative, who did not care about what had happened to people of his race.

So Thomas has been an extreme right winger on the Supreme Court, along with Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, but in many ways more hard right than even them, without the intellectual brilliance of Scalia for much of the time he has been on the Court.

Thomas has almost never asked questions in oral arguments, and his history on the Court is just about the least impressive of all nine Justices.

But at the same time, he has had conflicts of interest that should disqualify his Court membership, and his wife has been a big power player with Right Wing groups that present many conflicts of interest, but no concern or explanation or apology from Justice Thomas, who has no concern as to how he is perceived or reported in the news media.

Thomas has come across as arrogant, but also dense about discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, women, gays and lesbians, organized labor, and the environment.

Thomas is seen as certain to work against Affirmative Action, as in several cases in the past, despite the advantages he has had in his own life.

When one compares him to Justice Thurgood Marshall, it is clear that the appointment of Thomas was just about the worst decision President George H. W. Bush made in his term of office.

And if in the afterlife, someone can look down on the world, it would be clear that Justice Marshall, who was known for being blunt, would be furious that Thomas replaced him as the African American member on the Court, with no likelihood of his early departure anytime soon!

The 15 Greatest Supreme Court Justices Since 1900

The Supreme Court has become more controversial than ever in recent years, and the decisions of the John Roberts Court in 2015 only added fuel to the fire, regarding who the greatest and worst Supreme Court Justices have been in American history.

We have had 112 Supreme Court Justices, and 17 Chief Justices, including 5 who served as Associate Justice as well.

58 Justices have served since 1900, with a few selected before that date but serving into the 20th century. This includes 9 Chief Justices, including four who had served as Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.

If one had to select the top 15 Supreme Court Justices since 1900, without ranking them specifically, but instead creating a list chronologically, they would be listed as follows:

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Charles Evans Hughes
Louis Brandeis
Harlan Fiske Stone
Benjamin Cardozo
Hugo Black
Felix Frankfurter
William O. Douglas
Earl Warren
William J. Brennan, Jr.
Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun
John Paul Stevens
Sandra Day O’Connor
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Note that 9 of these 15 Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Republicans—Holmes by Theodore Roosevelt; Hughes by William Howard Taft and then elevated to Chief Justice by Herbert Hoover; Stone by Calvin Coolidge; Cardozo by Herbert Hoover; Warren and Brennan by Dwight D. Eisenhower; Blackmun by Richard Nixon; Stevens by Gerald Ford; and O’Connor by Ronald Reagan.

Democratic Presidents chose the following: Brandeis by Woodrow Wilson; Black, Frankfurter and Douglas by Franklin D. Roosevelt; Stone elevated to Chief Justice by FDR; Marshall by Lyndon B. Johnson; and Ginsburg by Bill Clinton.

The Supreme Court Of 2014 Most Right Wing Since Early 1930s!

The Supreme Court has been controversial at different times in its history, but the present Court of 2014 is considered the most right wing Court majority since the early 1930s!

Since the Warren Court, which began in the 1950s, we have never had such conservative Justices as we have now.

Three of the present Justices are among the most conservative ever to sit on the Court, including Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel Alito.

If one adds former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and former Associate Justice Lewis Powell, we have the five most conservative Justice since 1953, a period of 60 years.

Not much behind is Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, both capable of surprises in their votes and rulings, but still most of the time joining Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.

These seven named Justices were all picked by Republican Presidents–two by Richard Nixon; two by Ronald Reagan, plus his promotion of Rehnquist to the Chief Justiceship; one by George H. W. Bush; and two by George W. Bush.

But also, Republican Presidents have selected Justices who turned out to be quite moderate, and even sometimes liberal, including Chief Justice Earl Warren and Associate Justice William Brennan by Dwight D. Eisenhower; Chief Justice Warren Burger and Associate Justice Harry Blackmun by Richard Nixon; John Paul Stevens by Gerald Ford; Sandra Day O’Connor by Ronald Reagan; and David Souter by George H. W. Bush.

Since 1953, Republicans have controlled the White House for 36 years, while Democrats have had control for 25 plus years, and that has caused the right wing tilt of the Court, which could have been even more so, if not for the surprises presented by the seven “less” conservative, and some “quite liberal” Justices listed in the above paragraph!

So the Republicans have chosen 17 of the past 25 Justices since 1953, with John F. Kennedy picking two, but one (Byron White) turning out to be conservative, and Arthur Goldberg leaving the Court after only three years, due to the urging of Lyndon Johnson that he become United Nations Ambassador. Johnson selected Abe Fortas to replace Goldberg, but he stayed on the Court for only four years, and left the Court under the cloud of scandal. The first African American Justice, Thurgood Marshall, would go on to serve as a champion liberal for 24 years from 1967 to 1991.

Jimmy Carter would have no appointments to the Court in his four years in the White House, the only such situation in the 20th century, and one of only four Presidents to have had no appointments, but the only one to have a full term in the Presidency. The other three Presidents were William Henry Harrison (one month); Zachary Taylor (16 months); and Andrew Johnson (almost a complete term, but so unpopular that the Senate would not confirm any Court appointments in his time in office).

Bill Clinton selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer; and Barack Obama has chosen Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as his appointments, so far, on the Supreme Court. So note that out of the eight appointments by Democrats in the Presidency, three have been women; five have been Jewish; one has been African American; and one has been Puerto Rican, with only Byron White being a typical white Anglo Saxon Protestant.

The question has now arisen whether Ginsberg, and maybe even Breyer, should retire, and guarantee that Obama could replace them, with the concern that the Senate might go Republican in November, making any Court appointment nearly impossible due to gridlock and stalemate. There is also fear that were the Republicans to win the White House in 2016, which is highly unlikely, that then the Court would be ever more right wing reactionary than it already is.

It is a calculated gamble for Ginsburg and Breyer to remain on the Court for now, but it is not uncommon for Justices to retire at very advanced ages–such as Blackmun at 85 and Stevens at 90!

So do not expect that either will retire, but with a good chance of Democrats retaining the Senate majority in 2014, or regaining it on the back of the Democratic Presidential nominee’s expected major victory in 2016!

The Dangers Of The Supreme Court Run Amuck In Favor Of Wealthy And Corporations!

The Supreme Court is totally out of control, with its new decision on having no limits on campaign spending by wealthy donors, added on to the Citizens United Case of 2010, and the limitation of voting rights in a 2013 decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts has solidified a five member GOP majority to destroy all attempts to prevent corporate and wealthy people from controlling the political system, an effort pursued from the time of Theodore Roosevelt a century ago through Senator John McCain and Senator Russ Feingold in the 1990s and early 2000s.

That is all for naught now, and shows the dangers of a runaway, reckless, right wing radical Court!

This is what made Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Barack Obama criticize Court power, along with progressive reformers including Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, Senator George Norris of Nebraska, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont!

This is the result of 13 Supreme Court nominees since 1960 by Republican Presidents, to only 8 by Democrats, and with two of those Democratic appointments (Arthur Goldberg by John F. Kennedy and Abe Fortas by Lyndon B. Johnson), only lasting three and four years respectively.

Of course, Republican appointments of Harry Blackmun by Richard Nixon; John Paul Stevens by Gerald Ford; Sandra Day O’Connor by Ronald Reagan; and David Souter by George H. W. Bush, turned out to be major surprises in their rulings, but we also ended up with some of the most reactionary and right wing radical appointments in all of American history with the appointments of William Rehnquist by Richard Nixon and the elevation of Rehnquist to Chief Justice by Ronald Reagan; Lewis Powell by Richard Nixon; Antonin Scalia by Ronald Reagan; Clarence Thomas by George H. W. Bush; and Samuel Alito by George W. Bush. The appointments of Chief Justice Warren Burger by Richard Nixon; Anthony Kennedy by Ronald Reagan; and Chief Justice John Roberts by George W. Bush, have been more of a mixed bag, sometimes good, and sometimes horrible in its effect on constitutional law!

Meanwhile, John F. Kennedy selected a mostly conservative Justice Byron White; Lyndon B Johnson selected Thurgood Marshall; Bill Clinton selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer; and Barack Obama selected Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, but sadly, their influence in the last four of the five names listed, has been mostly in being the opposition, sometimes vehement in nature!

The effect on the future of American democracy is massive, with this right wing Court majority, and the only hope is the eventual retirement of Scalia and Kennedy, and hopefully, continuation of a Democratic Senate and President for the rest of the decade, so that the Court changes direction in the future!

Two Supreme Court Justices Prove To Be Disasters And Embarrassments: Clarence Thomas And Samuel Alito!

It is now clear that the second Supreme Court nominee choices of George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, have turned out to be disasters and embarrassments to the Court they serve on!

Clarence Thomas was appointed by the elder Bush, and went through a tumultuous Supreme Court nomination battle, centered on sexual harassment charges by Anita Hill, and his confirmation was the closest vote of a successful nominee in decades!

He has proceeded to be an embarrassment, showing bitterness and the desire for revenge, and sullying the memory of the first African American Justice, Thurgood Marshall, who he replaced on the Court in 1991.

And a beneficiary of affirmative action, he has now, just today, compared affirmative action to slavery and segregation, an absolutely crazy comparison!

This man is inappropriate in his behavior in so many ways, including NEVER asking a question during oral arguments, the only Justice in memory to have that unfortunate distinction!

And then there is Samuel Alito, the appointment of George W. Bush in 2005, who mouthed open opposition to Barack Obama’s criticism of the Citizens United Case in his State of the Union Address in 2010, embarrassing himself and the Court!

And Alito, today, mocked fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg with gestures, including rolling his eyes, shaking his head, and looking at the ceiling. And Alito apparently has a problem with the other women Justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, showing disrespect for them in open Court. As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post said today, Alito displays “Middle School antics”.

And imagine, Alito could have been the Chief Justice if John Roberts had already begun testimony to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, but before he could, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died, and President Bush decided to switch Roberts to the Chief Justice position, and so Alito replaced O’Connor as an Associate Justice on the Court! Imagine Chief Justice Alito, the sour puss and nasty personality!

So the Bushes made major mistakes in selection of Thomas and Alito, and the Court is stuck with them for many years, beyond the retirement of another conservative, Antonin Scalia, who is more intelligent, and more charming, even if often obnoxious as well!

Two Important Supreme Court Anniversaries On June 13: Miranda Decision And Nomination Of Thurgood Marshall

On this day, 47 years ago, the Supreme Court made one of its most important decisions in modern times, in the case Miranda V. Arizona, declaring that anyone stopped and questioned as a suspect by police officers must be read his basic rights before any questions are asked. While law enforcement was furious about this at the time, it has become one of the most important expansions of civil liberties in modern times, although one wonders if the Roberts Court would favor it, if a case came up to reverse it, as the Warren Court was a special, unique period in Supreme Court history.

Also, a year later on this day, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall, who went on to a distinguished 24 year career on the Supreme Court as one of its leading liberals. Sadly, he was replaced by Clarence Thomas, who is the direct opposite of everything Marshall believed in, with the only common theme being that Thomas is the only other African American ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

These two events transformed the Court in major ways, and this is an occasion to celebrate both events, as we await major decisions facing the Court in the next two weeks!