The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same . . .
I was on the Lawyers Club Board when, on September 9, 1991, we approved a statement written by then President Rebecca Prater that opposed the appointment of Judge Clarence Thomas to Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Testimony regarding his appointment was scheduled to begin the next day and Anita Hill testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee a month later.
I remember Hill’s testimony, and I remember the outrage, and I remember that the next year was the “Year of the Woman.” And here we are in 2017, with greater outrage. Any complacency that existed with respect to Lawyers Club’s mission to advance women in the law and in society has been trumped by renewed energy and angry motivation.
But thinking back to 1991, what I don’t remember was the Board debate about why, pre-Hill, we voted to oppose Thomas. The Board minutes reflect that we met for an hour and a half and discussed multiple topics. By counting lines devoted to any one topic in the minutes, we apparently spent the most time on the upcoming Wine and Cheese Reception (18 lines) and the least amount of time on my Treasurer’s Report (3 lines). The Thomas statement took up 4 lines.
The October Lawyers Club News was put together before the Hill testimony, so that issue does not reflect the ensuing firestorm. Prater’s statement, passed by the Board, was included. The basis for our opposition pre-Hill was several fold: (1) He did not support the right to choose, (2) He opposed affirmative action programs that benefited women and minorities, and (3) His performance as Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reflected an arrogant lack of respect for established laws, policies, and legal doctrines.
Those significant concerns later took a back seat to the explosive testimony of Anita Hill who described Thomas’ sexually explicit comments to her while she worked with him at the EEOC. The television reports of that testimony cannot be shaken. Recent events have only brought that anger back to life, and then some.
George W. Brewster, Jr., is a Chief Deputy County Counsel for San Diego County, he has served as a Lawyers Club Board Member for more years than any other male, and he wrote this for the History and Archives Committee.
Editor’s Note: Archived Lawyers Club News issues are available, click here to view.