Nearly three decades later, Thomas is the most senior member of the Supreme Court, which will soon have an official replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice and trailblazer for women’s rights, who recently died of cancer at the age of 87.
Today, Hill is a prominent lawyer, professor and powerful advocate against harassment, gender and racial discrimination through her role as chair of the Hollywood Commission. She, like many Americans, is remembering the historical life of Ginsburg, as the nation is divided over filling her seat with President Trump’s choice of Amy Coney Barrett as her replacement.
“I don’t really want to get into the politics, except to say that a confirmation process should be thoughtful and clear and thorough,” Hill told Variety in an interview conducted the day before Trump’s SCOTUS announcement, opting not to offer her thoughts on the upcoming presidential election. “It should inform not only the senate that’s voting, but it also should inform the public about what kind of person is going to be sitting in a lifetime appointment in the nation’s highest Court. I absolutely am not convinced that can happen in the middle of an election, as well in the middle of a pandemic and so many other things that are going on in this country now that need to be addressed.”
“I think it’s a rush,” Hill continued. “And I think it’s a rush that does a disservice, not only to the Court, but to the people who will come before the Court.”
Speaking to Ginsburg’s legacy, Hill believes her most significant contribution was fighting for the rights of women in the legal system. The attorney and academic emphasizes the importance of continuing Ginsburg’s legacy by making sure her work is not forgotten and diminished.
“In terms of her legal practice and time on the Court, she defined gender equality, in a way that no one else has,” Hill says. “She was very outspoken about the need to really align the real-lived experiences of women with the law. I think that is a tremendous contribution. Other people will define her contributions differently, but for me, her work that aligned real life with the law with rights is what I think was so special about her life, and that is the legacy that we have to continue to build on.”
When Thomas was confirmed in 1991, he succeeded Thurgood Marshall, the Court’s first Black justice and equality activist, who was the key strategist in the effort to end racial segregation, arguing the case of Brown v. Board of Education in front of the Supreme Court.
Hill draws a parallel between Marshall and Ginsburg when honoring her legacy.
“When Thurgood Marshall left the bench and was replaced, and now Ruth Bader Ginsburg left the bench and will be replaced, what we lost were two people who had represented individuals to develop rights and to embrace rights when they had no rights,” Hill says.
“That experience is gone from the Court,” she continues. “I think they were both very special to us in being there on the Court to be those voices of the people who had been completely marginalized and had been left out of equal protection, and to make sure they were brought in.”
Hill concludes, “Now, we have to make sure that they stay in.”