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5 Worst Nomination Fights in SCOTUS History

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

As President Trump's newest SCOTUS nomination is expected to be announced today, it seems like a good time to look back at some of the most contentious, and worst, Supreme Court justice nominations and hearings throughout history.

As IU Law professor and legal scholar Charles Gardner Geyh, discussing how nominations have been terminally delayed several times before President Trump ever even considered a run at the Presidency, explained:

"There is this tendency to view history through rose-colored glasses from time to time, and to suggest we've never been this political. In reality, we have always had a highly politicized selection process."

Here are five of the toughest nomination fights that might make you wish you could un-ring the bell (again, for some of you readers out there) in some cases, that is.

No. 5: G. Harrold Carswell, aka Justice Mediocre

President Nixon Nominated Carswell who had scant experience as a federal judge, and was widely regarded as "mediocre." Notably, Carswell's confirmation was extra contentious given that the previous nominee put forth by Nixon, Clement Haynsworth came under intense scrutiny and was rejected for being anti-labor and anti-civil rights, and a little too in favor of vending machines. Carswell was not confirmed. Apparently, he was perhaps a little too mediocre. But the silver lining is that Republican Senator Roman Hrusk, while lobbying for Carswell, actually said the following:

"Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that."

No. 4: Douglas Ginsburg, the Almost Justice that Smoked Pot ... Once

Former Harvard Law professor, and a justice on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Douglas Ginsburg was nominated by President Reagan in 1987. Curiously, Ginsburg withdrew his nomination after it came to light that he once smoked marijuana in 1970s. He also faced intense scrutiny over his legal scholarship. But the pot thing really did him in. Apparently the now-common response of "didn't everybody" wasn't going to fly in the late 80s.

No. 3: Robert Bork, No Relation to Swedish Chef

Bork was a Nixon nominee who actually is responsible for giving us the verb "to bork," which if you didn't know, means to "obstruct (especially a candidate for public office) through systematic defamation or vilification." (Sorry Muppet fans, but the Swedish Chef gets no love from the dictionary).

Bork was anti-abortion, anti-civil rights, and a conservative icon, and given the times, that wasn't a good combination then. Senator Ted Kennedy led the charge against Bork and successfully borked him, as Bork was not confirmed.

No. 2: Justice Clarence Thomas. Yes, That Clarence Thomas

This confirmation battle is quite a bit more recent, and many more readers may remember this one more clearly. There have actually been recent reports corroborating Anita Hill's testimony.

Particularly by today's standards, it is an absolute wonder that Justice Thomas even sat for the hearings, let alone got confirmed.

No. 1: The Battle for Justice Brandeis

Justice Brandeis, though celebrated as one of the smartest SCOTUS justices in our history, had one of the most contentious confirmations. As discussed on, it lasted over four months, and his being Jewish was actually a huge problem. Former President Taft spoke out against him, calling him a muckraker. However, when it came time to vote, the Senate confirmed by a wide margin of 47 to 22.

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