(WOMENSENEWS)–Larry D. Thompson was named this week to be No. 2 in the John Ashcroft Justice Department.

Thompson is a long-time friend of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and served as a member of the Thomas legal team when Thomas was accused of sexually harassing staff members while he headed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A conservative Atlanta attorney who is black, Thompson is highly regarded by liberals and has a reputation for even-handedness. He and Thomas, as young lawyers, had worked together for the Monsanto Co. in St. Louis and Thompson served as U.S. attorney in Atlanta during the Reagan administration. Most recently, according to The New York Times, defended prominent clients accused of white-collar crimes.

Less well known is Thompson’s role in his friend’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1992. Published accounts say that Thompson was among those who developed a strategy to portray Anita Hill, his client’s chief accuser, as suffering from a rare mental disorder known as erotomania.

According to a book on the nomination battle, “Strange Justice,” written by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, after Hill passed a polygraph test, Thompson issued a statement saying that one could both lie and pass a lie detector test “if a person suffers from a delusional disorder.” His statement was read into the Senate record and Thompson identified only as a former U.S. attorney, not as a lawyer trying to defend a client.