The confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch have gone slightly under the radar due to the nature of the Trump era news cycle. However, even those that do pay attention may not be familiar with the process. Some may wonder whether or not this is one of the more contentious nominations of the court’s history given the way Merrick Garland was handled. Never fear, here is a list of books that cover the nomination process as well as past dramatic hearings.
1. Battle For Justice by Ethan Bronner
Every time a seat on the supreme court opens up, inevitably a showdown between liberals and conservatives will arise. The battle over the nomination of Robert Bork not only involved Senators trying to control the narrative over Bork’s nomination, but included the American public trying to sway the Senate. Over the course of the confirmation process, Senators would often receive calls from their constituents arguing for and against the elevation of Bork onto the Supreme Court. At the time, the nomination hearings of Robert Bork were considered to be one of the most contentious in US history.
2. Strange Justice by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson
Although we are used to hearings for a Supreme Court nominee to be something of a spectacle, the hearings for Clarence Thomas were something else entirely. In addition to the usual battles between liberals and conservatives, the Thomas hearings had the added drama of a sexual harassment accusation. During the confirmation hearings, a woman named Anita Hill came forward and accused Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her. In order to combat the accusations, Jayne Mayer and Jill Abramson argue that behind the scenes, interested parties went out of there way to ensure the allegations minimally impacted the judge’s confirmation. The attempts to sell the judge essentially amounted to a massive advertisement campaign on Thomas’ behalf.
3. Showdown by Wil Haygood
Thurgood Marshall is known today as the judge that struck down the old separate but equal doctrine who also was a fighter for human rights on the bench. He was also the first black judge to serve on the Supreme Court. However, before he could be an advocate for equality on the Supreme Court, Marshall faced fairly heavy resistance from conservative Senators during his confirmation hearings. Prominent Senators such as Strom Thurmond, Sam Earvin, and John McClellan attempted to fight Marshall’s nomination tooth and nail. Wil Haywood’s biography not only gives us a look at the life of the legendary Supreme Court justice, but also paints a comprehensive picture of the civil rights landscape of the day.
4. Louis D. Brandeis: A Life by Melvin I. Urofsky
Louis D. Brandeis is yet another judge who faced a controversial nomination hearing due to his background. The Jewish Supreme Court nominee faced accusations that his faith would make him too radical of a judge. Although Brandeis did have a view of the law that was considered radical at the time, it is difficult to tell to what degree his faith played a role in these views. Although Melvin Urofsky only touches briefly on the confirmation hearing, instead mostly focusing on the judge’s life, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life is still well worth a read.
5. Advice and Consent by Paul Simon
In Advice and Consent, former Senator Paul Simon gives readers an inside look into the confirmation process as well as his thoughts on possible improvements. In this book, Simon looks at each confirmation hearing from the George Washington presidency up until the Bill Clinton era. For the most part, Simon offers some insightful reviews of the Senate’s performance during especially contentious hearings, such as those of Thomas and Bork. Ultimately, Simon argues that the President should consult with the Senate prior to nominating a justice to the Supreme Court. Advice and Consent is a fantastic read for anyone who wants an in depth look at the confirmation process and how it has changed over the years.
After reading these books you will undoubtedly know all you could possibly want to know about the Supreme Court confirmation process. You will also know more about the Supreme Court’s controversial past than you might want.
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h/t New York Time