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Thu Oct 11, 2018, 12:07 PM

A Lesson for Kavanaugh From Another Tarnished Supreme Court Justice by Linda Greenhouse

Hugo Black rose from his past in the Ku Klux Klan to become one of the great civil libertarians.

'It’s obvious why the parallel between the battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and that of Clarence Thomas 27 years earlier grabbed the public’s attention. In both cases, late-breaking allegations threatened but failed to derail the confirmation process, and both nominees defended themselves with impassioned denials of wrongdoing.

But history offers another, older parallel that in its way is even more compelling. The issue was not sex but racism. The bombshell burst not just before a confirmation vote, but just afterward, forcing a newly confirmed Supreme Court justice to take to the airwaves to defend himself against mounting calls for his resignation. I’m referring to the experience of Hugo L. Black, the first Supreme Court nominee of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation, this nearly forgotten episode is worth resurrecting after 81 years.

Black was a Democratic senator from Alabama, a populist and ardent supporter of the New Deal who had backed the president’s failed plan to add additional justices to the Supreme Court who could outvote the conservatives who were invalidating major New Deal programs. The retirement of one of those conservatives, Willis Van Devanter, gave Roosevelt his first chance to make a dent in the Supreme Court.

Black’s nomination in the summer of 1937 was controversial, not only because it was a sharp stick in the eyes of the president’s many political enemies, but because of Black’s limited judicial experience — he was briefly a police court magistrate — and an education viewed as marginal for a Supreme Court justice. Although a graduate of the University of Alabama Law School, Black had never gone to college.

Shortly after the president announced the nomination, rumors circulated that as a young lawyer in Alabama, Black had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The N.A.A.C.P. asked for an investigation, but a Senate Judiciary subcommittee rammed the nomination through to the full committee after two hours of consideration. One Democratic senator, William Dieterich of Illinois, accused other senators of trying to “besmirch” Black’s reputation. As the historian William E. Leuchtenberg described the scene in a fascinating 1973 article, “Dieterich’s tirade nearly resulted in a fist fight” as another Democratic senator charged at him. . .

And here’s the point: During those 34 years, Hugo Black became one of the great civil libertarians in Supreme Court history. One of his early opinions, Chambers v. Florida, overturned the murder convictions of four African-Americans on the ground that their confessions had been coerced in violation of the right to due process. He wrote the majority opinion in Engel v. Vitale, holding that official school prayer in public school violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. He wrote Gideon v. Wainwright, granting indigent criminal defendants the right to counsel. He wrote for the court in Wesberry v. Sanders, a landmark reapportionment case requiring congressional districts to be of equal population. The list goes on. That Black is celebrated today as the ultimate champion of the First Amendment may explain why the Klan episode that convulsed the country has largely been lost in the mists of time. . .

Justice Kavanaugh said he had “no bitterness.” He would be a “force for stability and unity” on the court, he said, adding, “My goal is to be a great justice for all Americans and for all America.”

It may be decades before we know whether he has achieved that goal. Speaking only for myself — like Justice Kavanaugh, I prefer the sunrise side of the mountain — I hope he does.'

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/11/opinion/editorials/kavanaugh-thomas-nomination-lesson.html?

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Reply A Lesson for Kavanaugh From Another Tarnished Supreme Court Justice by Linda Greenhouse (Original post)
elleng Oct 11 OP
marylandblue Oct 11 #1
LoisB Oct 11 #4
Power 2 the People Oct 11 #2
eppur_se_muova Oct 11 #3

Response to elleng (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 12:25 PM

1. Kavanaugh is no Hugo Black.

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Response to marylandblue (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 03:07 PM

4. Amen!

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Response to elleng (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 01:11 PM

2. Probability - ZERO

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Response to elleng (Original post)

Thu Oct 11, 2018, 02:27 PM

3. Lesson wasted. He majored in beer, not history. nt

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