Thinking Citizen Blog — Supreme Court Justice (IV): Clarence Thomas
Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic — Supreme Court Justice (IV): Clarence Thomas — second African American, longest serving (29 years). Conservative
In 1948, Clarence Thomas was born into poverty in a small black town speaking Gullah as his first language. His father was a farm laborer, his mother a maid, both descendants of slaves. In 1974, Clarence graduated from Yale Law School and in 1990 President George H.W. Bush nominated him to the US Supreme Court. Today, he is the longest serving justice on the court and is best known for his conservatism, deeply rooted in the values of hard work and self-reliance instilled in him by his maternal grandfather, Myers Anderson, whom he has called “the greatest man I have ever known.” Justice Thomas’s autobiography is entitled “My Grandfather’s Son.” Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
FEROCIOUSLY OPPOSED TO AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
1. Thomas strongly believes that racial preferences are a violation of the equal protection clause.
2. He also believes that the policies undermine the value of self-reliance preached by Frederick Douglass and practiced by his grandfather.
3. His personal experience with affirmative action after graduating from Yale Law School was that few potential employers took the degree seriously — the assumption being that the only way he got into Yale was his race.
NB: His intellectual mentor has been Thomas Sowell, the African American economist, whose analysis of affirmative action programs around the world has shown a.) that they tend to benefit the elite within the favored groups at the expense of the non-elite within the non-preferred groups, b.) lead members of non-preferred groups to re-designate themselves as members of the preferred groups, c.) reduce incentives of both groups to do their best because either it is unnecessary or futile.
A TEXTUALIST, ORIGINALIST, LIBERTARIAN — CLOSEST TO JUSTICE SCALIA
1. “On average, from 1994 to 2004, Scalia and Thomas had an 87% voting alignment, the highest on the court.”
2. Opposed to judges making law rather than just interpreting it.
3. A Catholic, Thomas has opposed abortion and dissented in opinions that affirmed gay rights such as Romer (1996) and Obergefell (2015).
NB: He has generally supported police against defendants.
CONTROVERSIES — ANITA HILL ALLEGATIONS, SILENCE DURING ORAL ARGUMENTS
1. Sexual harassment allegations by Anita Hill (above), who had worked with Thomas at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, were denied by Thomas. He was ultimately confirmed by a vote of 52 to 48 with 11 Democrats voting for confirmation and 2 Republicans against.
2. Thomas is known as the silent judge. Prior to Covid and teleconferencing, Thomas had only spoken in 32 of 2400 oral arguments since 1991. He had gone over a decade without saying a word. Jeffrey Toobin, writing in the New Yorker. has called this silence “disgraceful” behavior that has “gone from curious to bizarre to downright embarrassing, for himself and for the institution he represents.”
3. “Thomas has given many reasons for his silence, including self-consciousness about how he speaks, a preference for listening to those arguing the case, and difficulty getting in a word. Thomas’s speaking and listening habits also may have been influenced by his Gullah upbringing, during which time his English was relatively unpolished.”
NB: “Thomas is not the first quiet justice. In the 1970s and 1980s, Justices William J. Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, and Harry Blackmun generally were quiet.”
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Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.