Almost (Really) Famous: 9 Former Supreme Court Candidates

Mario Cuomo (seated with Hilary Clinton) declined President Bill Clinton's offer for Supreme Court candidacy.
Mario Cuomo (seated with Hilary Clinton) declined President Bill Clinton's offer for Supreme Court candidacy.
JENNIFER LAW, Getty Images

If she's confirmed, Solicitor General Elena Kagan would become the fourth woman to sit on the Supreme Court. If not, at least she'll earn a spot on a future version of this list—candidates who were almost appointed to the highest court in the land.

1. Dallin H. Oaks

After suffering a debilitating stroke, William O. Douglas reluctantly retired from the Supreme Court in 1975. Douglas, who was in office for 36 years, was determined to outlast Gerald Ford's presidential term after Ford had unsuccessfully attempted to impeach Douglas while serving as House Minority Leader five years earlier. While Ford selected Seventh Circuit judge John Paul Stevens to replace Douglas, he considered several other candidates, including Brigham Young University president Dallin H. Oaks.

Six years later, while serving as a Utah Supreme Court Justice, Oaks was a candidate for the Supreme Court vacancy that Sandra Day O'Connor eventually filled. In 1984, Oaks retired from the Utah Supreme Court to pursue a higher calling and was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Today, Oaks is the fifth most senior apostle among the ranks of the LDS church.

2. Robert H. Bork

Ronald Reagan elevated William Rehnquist to Chief Justice following Warren Burger's retirement in 1986 and considered two judges—Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia—to fill the Associate Justice vacancy created by Rehnquist's promotion. While Reagan chose the younger Scalia this time, he would nominate Bork to fill the vacancy left by Lewis Powell, who retired one year later. Democrats had threatened to put up a fight if Reagan nominated a conservative to replace the moderate Powell and Bork, a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was an easy target. He had close ties to Richard Nixon, having fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at Nixon's request while serving as United States Solicitor General in 1973. Shortly after Bork was nominated, Sen. Ted Kennedy condemned him during a nationally televised speech. "Bork's rigid ideology will tip the scales of justice against the kind of country America is and ought to be," Kennedy said. While many Democrats would admit that Kennedy's criticism of Bork was over the top, the damage had been done. The Senate rejected Bork's confirmation, 58-42.

After Bork was rejected, Reagan planned to nominate Douglas Ginsburg, but Ginsburg withdrew his name from consideration after it was revealed that he had smoked marijuana with his students while he was a professor at Harvard Law School. Reagan ultimately chose Ninth Circuit judge Anthony Kennedy.

3. Edith H. Jones

After a stroke led William Brennan to announce his retirement in 1990, George H.W. Bush moved quickly to nominate a replacement. John Sununu, the White House chief of staff, helped Bush narrow a list of about a dozen candidates down to two: First Circuit judge David Souter and Fifth Circuit judge Edith H. Jones. Less than a week after the news broke that Brennan was stepping down, Bush nominated Souter. "Reading between the lines, and that's all it is, maybe we're talking about a sequence here," Sununu said of Jones after the decision was announced. "Maybe she is the choice the next time we have a vacancy on the Court. There are no sure things, and times and conditions can change, but the President was impressed." Jones, who was later considered for a Supreme Court vacancy by George W. Bush, is currently the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

4. Emilio M. Garza

Like William O. Douglas, liberal Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, had no plans of leaving the bench while a conservative was in office. But Marshall was becoming increasingly ill and announced his retirement in 1991, two years before he died of a heart failure, while George H.W. Bush was in the White House. A number of candidates were reportedly considered for the vacancy, including Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, Clarence Thomas, and Garza, who was a recently appointed Fifth Circuit judge. Due to concerns over Garza's inexperience—he had only been on the Fifth Circuit for a few weeks—and a desire to replace Marshall with a black conservative, Bush chose Thomas.

5. Mario Cuomo

Byron White, who was an All-American running back at Colorado before attending Yale and being appointed to the Supreme Court in 1962, retired from office in 1993. Bill Clinton wanted to offer the position to New York Governor Mario Cuomo, the only person he mentioned as a potential replacement during his 1992 campaign. While he initially seemed open to the idea, Cuomo later sent a letter to Clinton indicating that he was not interested in the position. "I do not know whether you might indeed have nominated me, but because there has been public speculation concerning the possibility, I think I owe it to you to make clear now that I do not wish to be considered," Cuomo wrote. After Cuomo declined, Clinton considered several other candidates, including Sen. George J. Mitchell and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, before ultimately nominating Columbia law professor and judge for the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

6. Richard Arnold

Harry Blackmun announced his retirement in 1994 and Clinton was prepared to offer the nomination to Mitchell, who had turned down the offer the previous year to remain in the Senate. Clinton also considered Eighth Circuit judge Richard S. Arnold, a fellow Arkansas native, but he had reservations about Arnold's health. Arnold had been diagnosed with low-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma nearly 20 years earlier. Clinton eventually chose First Circuit judge Stephen Breyer, who had interviewed with Clinton for the vacancy left by White in 1993, but failed to impress, perhaps as a result of the pain he was in after being hit by a car while biking a few days earlier. Arnold died from an infection related to his treatment in 2004.

7. Edith Brown Clement

When Sandra Day O'Connor announced her plans to retire in 2005, it left George W. Bush with his first opportunity after more than four years in office to nominate a member of the Supreme Court. First Lady Laura Bush suggested that a woman should replace O'Connor and two female judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals—Edith Brown Clement and Edith Jones (see #3)—were reportedly among the leading candidates. Clement soon emerged as the rumored choice, but after ABC News published a story on its website that Clement was not Bush's pick, the attention turned to the candidate who had become known as the "Other Edith." Bush, of course, selected John G. Roberts, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, instead. Clement continues to serve as a Fifth Circuit judge.

8. Harriet Miers

When Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died in September 2005, Roberts's confirmation was still pending. Bush withdrew and then resubmitted Roberts's nomination, this time for Chief Justice, leaving O'Connor's seat vacant once again. Bush nominated a woman, his close friend Harriet Miers, but the choice sparked unprecedented criticism from both parties. Robert Bork called the nomination "a disaster on every level." Miers, the White House Counsel who had previously served as Bush's private attorney, lacked judicial experience and her position on key issues was largely unknown. Facing heated criticism, Bush eventually accepted Miers's request to withdraw her nomination and chose Third Circuit judge Samuel Alito as O'Connor's replacement.

9. Janet Napolitano

The short list of Barack Obama's candidates to replace David Souter when Souter announced his plans to retire at the end of the Supreme Court's term in 2009 included Seventh Circuit judge Pamela Wood, future nominee Kagan, and the eventual nominee, Second Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was also among the candidates who met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden before a decision was made. Had Napolitano been nominated and confirmed, she would have served alongside Clarence Thomas. In 1991, Napolitano represented Anita Hill, who had accused Thomas of sexual harassment, during the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on the matter.

A New Ruth Bader Ginsburg Bobblehead Is Available for Pre-Order

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum

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The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a devout champion for feminism and civil rights, and her influence stretched from the halls of the Supreme Court to the forefront of popular culture, where she affectionately became known as the Notorious RBG. Though there are plenty of public tributes planned for Ginsburg in the wake of her passing, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has a new RBG bobblehead ($25) available for pre-order so you can honor her in your own home.

There are two versions of the bobblehead available, one of Ginsburg smiling and another with a more serious expression. Not only do the bobbleheads feature her in her Supreme Court black robe, but eagle-eyed fans will see she is wearing one for her iconic coded collars and her classic earrings.

RBG is far from the only American icon bobblehead that the Hall of Fame store has produced in such minute detail. They also have bobbleheads of Abraham Lincoln ($30), Theodore Roosevelt ($30), Alexander Hamilton ($30), and dozens of others.

For more information on the RBG bobblehead, head here. Shipments will hopefully be sent out by December 2020 while supplies last.

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100 Years Later, the Story of Florida’s Ocoee Massacre—an Election Day Attack on Black Citizens—Is Finally Being Told

Courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center
Courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center

The bloodiest Election Day in the history of the United States is a story many Americans have never heard. On November 2, 1920, the day of the U.S. presidential election, a white mob attacked a Black neighborhood in the city of Ocoee, Florida. Now, the story of the Ocoee Massacre is being told in a new museum exhibition for its 100-year anniversary, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The exhibit, titled "Yesterday, This Was Home: The Ocoee Massacre of 1920,” is now on display at the Orange County Regional History Center in Downtown Orlando. It examines what the museum calls "the largest incident of voting-day violence in United States history."

On November 2, 1920, a black labor broker named Moses Norman attempted to vote in what is now Ocoee, only to be turned away when he didn't pay the $1 poll tax. He returned later that day to attempt to vote again, and this time his persistence caught the attention of local Ku Klux Klan members.

Knowing his actions had provoked anger, Norman fled town. A mob of armed white men went to the home of his friend July Perry that night while searching for him. Perry, a fellow labor broker, was 50 years old and had been involved in civic activities like registering more Black citizens to vote. Sha’Ron Cooley McWhite, Perry's great niece, told the Orlando Sentinel that his bravery and activism likely made him a target for white supremacists.

July PerryCourtesy of Orange County Regional History Center

The confrontation at Perry's home led to a shootout and ended with the mob capturing Perry and lynching him. The violence raged in the Black neighborhood throughout the night. By morning, the mob of 250 had burned down 22 homes and two churches and murdered dozens of Black residents.

Like many tragedies suffered by Black communities in U.S. history, the story of the Ocoee Massacre is not widely known. Poor record-keeping and intentional suppression of the news has left historians with an incomplete picture of exactly what happened that night. The Orange County Regional History Center had to collect land records, written reports, and oral histories to recount the event in depth.

"Yesterday, This Was Home: The Ocoee Massacre of 1920” is on display at the Orange County Regional History Center now through February 14, 2021.

[h/t Orlando Sentinel]