American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law
Ten years ago, when George Herbert Walker Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, I, like many Americans and most lawyers, waited with interest to hear information about this soon-to-be-powerful man. I had a vague recollection from my recent law school days of hearing about a young, conservative, black federal judge who might be inline for a nomination to the Court. This vague reference was all that I had heard of Clarence Thomas prior to the Fall of 1991.
When stories about Thomas began to appear in the press, the information supported my tenuous perceptions: Thomas was a young, extremely well educated African-American from a modest background. Thomas had worked in the Reagan and Bush administrations and had publicly denounced affirmative action and other policies generally supported by what was still known as the 'Civil Rights Community.' While I was in no way pleased by what these stories indicated about Thomas' political and social views, I was not particularly surprised or upset. After all, we had a Republican president. One of the reasons why I had so fervently hoped that we would not have a Republican president was that I knew he would have the authority to appoint people to the Court that agreed with him and not me. With the rare, wonderful and blindly lucky exception of William Brennan or David Souter, presidents usually do a pretty good job of choosing people with ideologies similar to their own. Thus, I was not surprised that one of President Bush's judicial nominees would share his ideology.