Progressives urge President Obama to nominate Anita Hill to the Supreme Court

In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia‘s sudden and surprising death this weekend, a slew of names have flooded the Internet as Americans pin their hopes for a new Supreme Court justice onto President Barack Obama.

One of the suggested nominees has an increasingly vocal fan base. With countless social media posts and a new petition that’s received 6,000 signatures in about two days, some Americans are gunning for a controversial nominee: Brandeis University law professor Anita Hill, famous for her accusations against another Supreme Court jurist.

“Anita Hill is a highly qualified legal scholar with all the right qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice,” reads the Change.org petition calling for her nomination. “She will be an excellent choice to make the most important decisions facing our judiciary.”

In a strange twist of fate, the trailer for a new Kerry Washington biopic about Anita Hill was released on Friday. Scalia died in his sleep later that night, and he was discovered on Saturday morning by friends who had accompanied him on a hunting trip to Marfa, Texas. The biopic is slated to air on HBO on April 16.

The left has applauded Obama’s announcement that he plans to nominate a new judge before the end of his final term as president, with many calling for more racial and gender diversity on the court. But were Hill to be nominated, it would represent a greater coup of sorts for women’s rights.

Hill’s testimony against former boss, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, during his 1991 SCOTUS confirmation hearings dramatically increased public awareness of the problem of workplace sexual harassment. 

During the hearings, despite her passing a polygraph test and other accusers stepping forward with similar recollections of Thomas’s sexual harassment, Hill was heavily questioned, criticized, and disbelieved by many on the committee, in the media, and among the public. In effect, Hill was put on trial herself, stating in the 2013 documentary Anita that “the issue became my character”—not Thomas’.

The legacy following Hill’s accusations led to increased federal policies banning sexual harassment, a dramatic increase in sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and an increase in litigation involving sexual harassment charges.

Were Obama to nominate Hill, she would face task of serving on the same court as Thomas. While Hill is not a judge, she is an award-winning academic legal scholar. According to the Supreme Court, a justice does not need to be a lawyer in order to be appointed; there are no specific qualifications for a nominee.

Hill told the Daily Dot in an email that she was not available to comment on the campaign for her nomination at this time.

On Saturday, during a speech addressing Scalia’s death, Obama said that he would begin the nomination process.

 “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” Obama said during the televised speech. “There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.”

Update 3pm Ct, Feb. 15: Added Hill’s response to our request for comment.

Photo via Mike Lovett/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY SA 4.0)

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.