On the list of Supreme Court Justices, Clarence Thomas experienced one of the most controversial nomination hearings. While Justices Scalia and Kennedy faced unanimous approval, the Senate vote which approved Clarence Thomas was very close, with the final vote coming to fifty two Senators in favor and forty eight Senators opposed. This was the narrowest confirmation vote in more than a century.
Clarence Thomas had first appeared on a list of Supreme Court Justices replacement candidates in 1990 when Justice Brennan stepped down. However, President George H.W. Bush had to postpone his nomination of Thomas due to concerns that he was not yet sufficiently experienced.
By the time Thomas was finally nominated a year later, however, these fears had not yet been address. President Bush stated that Clarence Thomas was the “best qualified [nominee] at this time” However, there is dubious support for this claim. Critics have claimed that instead, Thomas was the only African American candidate who could provide a reliably conservative vote to replace Thurgood Marshal, the only African American on the Court.
The American Bar Association rated Thomas “qualified” by a 13-2 margin, well below the normal recommendation that most nominees had received since Eisenhower, a unanimous “well qualified” evaluation. Part of the criticism was that Clarence Thomas had never argued before the high courts, had never written a consequential legal book, article of brief.
The most serious reason Clarence Thomas is included on a loss of Supreme Court Justices who have faced a challenging nomination process is because of allegations of sexual harassment leveled again Thomas during the hearing by Anita Hill.