Justice Clarence Thomas celebrated his 75th birthday last week by delivering a gift that he personally gave — the majority opinion in a case involving gun rights. This will have national implications.
It was the culmination of a massive, but fractured term that saw the conservative majority of 6-3 win on a multitude of hot-button topics and building momentum for a dramatic rightward shift which shows no signs of slowing.
Thomas was the senior associate justice, and the de facto driver for the conservative wing. He showed his leadership skills in court this year.
– Restoring the right to abortion to the states by striking down Roe V. Wade and the nationwide constitutional right to it
– Allowing law-abiding citizens to conceal their firearms in public places.
– Restricting the Biden administration’s ability to enforce a variety of executive policies, including federal COVID-related workplace mandates and climate change regulations
Parents who wish to use public tuition aid to send their children to Catholic schools. They also favor public prayer on the high school football field.
“All these issues align with Clarence Thomas’s past 30 years,” Mark Paoletta, a friend and coauthor of “Created equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own words”, said Mark Paoletta.
Thomas, who has adopted a more measured, institutionalist position on some hot-button issues such as abortion and immigration with Chief Justice John Roberts, is the quiet voice of an unapologetic majority on the Supreme Court. This term was marked by a number of conservative victories.
Next term will offer more opportunities, as the court will hear appeals regarding affirmative action in college admissions and religious freedom for business owners.
Thomas’ expansive views were not shared by any other court member, but progressive leaders raised the alarm.
Some Democrats went even further and twisted Thomas’ jurisprudence into harshly personal terms.
Hillary Clinton and her husband, Thomas, attended Yale Law School together with Thomas (alongside Justice Samuel Alito). This week, Thomas was called “a person of anger, grievance, and resentment” by Hillary Clinton. She also stated that “women will die” due to the abortion ruling Thomas approved.
The justice’s defenders pushed back.
Paoletta said that the Left was racist. They expect Clarence Thomas think the same way that they believe a Black man should, based on the skin color. They want Clarence Thomas to be destroyed. Clarence Thomas has refused to do this for over 40 years. Clarence Thomas doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
His house was pickedeted along with other conservative justices’ before and after Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization’s abortion ruling.
The nation’s second Black justice is a man who has always done things his own way. He overcame a difficult childhood and had his own unique experiences dealing with discrimination during the civil rights movement.
Thomas is an outcast among African Americans because of his curving path to conservative jurisprudence.
He once stated, “People who are very upset when someone says all Blacks look the same are really content that all Blacks should think alike.” It’s strange, I think.
Carrie Severino (chief counsel at Judicial Crisis network, and a former Thomas law clerk) stated that “there are a lot people who don’t like the fact he breaks their expectations.” They expect him to be a liberal African American, but he is his own man. He’s his own man, even among conservatives.
His consistency in conservatism has made him an influential figure among his colleagues. This has only just recently been noticed by the public.
Thomas’ rise has been at the expense Roberts, who is a lifelong conservative.
According to scotusblog.com, the chief justice was involved in 95% of cases decided during this term. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was tied for second place. Justice Amy Coney Barrett came in close behind with 93%.
Roberts voted for conservatives in gun rights, workplace mandates, death penalty, workplace concealment mandates, EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and two prominent religious liberty appeals.
He joined liberals to support a separate workplace mandate for masks and the “remain-in-Mexico” immigration asylum policy.
However, it was his compromise position on abortion which earned him the hatred of the right and left.
In his concur opinion, he made it clear that he would have upheld the nationwide pre-viability rights to abortion in limited fashion but let Mississippi’s ban stand after 15 weeks.
He refused to support his conservative colleagues’ decision not to abandon Roe. Roberts, now 67, has the reputation of being the man in middle. His votes on hot-button topics often proved decisive over his 17-year career as a high court judge.
Although he tends to be more right-leaning, President George W. Bush appointed Roberts has shown his independence over the years with Obama Care and the current abortion ruling.
It is a principled position to avoid embroiling court in controversy. A less-is-best approach may have been the best in this time of division in the country.
The Roe ruling was met with a predictable partisan response. This raised new questions about the public’s trust in the court as an impartial arbiter of law.
Thomas Dupree, an ex-official of Bush Justice Department and now an appellate lawyer, said that calling into question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is a different thing. “I believe that it’s wrong and ultimately, it’s harmful to our country.
The court’s “chief,” as he is commonly known, has made public statements about his long-term efforts in achieving consensus with his colleagues whenever possible, respecting precedent, and preserving the court’s reputation.
He stated that the “partisan rancor” among Congress members “impedes their ability” to perform their duties in a speech from 2014. This shouldn’t spread and affect us.”
It has, according to almost all court observers and the general public.
In a Fox News poll, only 39% favored the Supreme Court’s job performance in June. 48% disagreed.
Recent surveys have revealed that public confidence in America’s Supreme Court has fallen to historic lows. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court was questioned about whether Americans trust them to protect their country’s interests.
Thomas is now the oldest court member, after Justice Stephen Breyer retires. Last November, Thomas was moved by the tribute that Justice Stephen Breyer gave to his colleague in public courtroom sessions.
Thomas smiled brightly and wrapped his arms around Roberts to show him affection.
However, many people saw Thomas’ remarks at a legal conference as a subtle dig at the chief’s leadership. They remembered how things were before Roberts assumed control in 2005.
Thomas stated, “We actually trusted one another.” “We were dysfunctional, but we loved each other.”
This was just days after Politco received a draft opinion in Dobbs’ case. The draft previewed the final outcome two months later. Thomas was clearly frustrated as internal strife over the case spread out in the public.
The court is still conducting an internal leak investigation, but no evidence has been found to prove that it has identified a suspect.
Many believe it was a disgruntled clerk in law. Fox News reported that court officials were asking 37 clerks to submit affidavits and turn over their cell phones to 37 justices. Roberts may have to complete the investigation before the clerks go, as their one-year apprenticeships end in mid-July.
Thomas isn’t exaggerating. Thomas is not exaggerating. The leak has shaken the court’s internal dynamics, which promises to continue indefinitely.
The new Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will take over for the retired Breyer this week. This is another change in the dynamic. Watch her colleagues to see how she adapts to the fractured court and if she is the progressive voice Biden and supporters promised.
Thomas may have some power over his conservative colleagues but his power is not unlimited. He was a consistent, if not rigid, conservative who was able to get him into the majority of 81% cases that were decided during this term. He was also the only dissenter in three crucial cases. This tied Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Thomas, who may be Thomas’ liberal counterpoint. She was the lowest of the nine, being in the majority 58% of the times.
The Thomas imprint was everywhere in the largest cases, with the highest stakes. Success is always met with criticism and scrutiny. Democrats demand that he resign from the court. Demands that he withdraw from any future cases involving January 6th and attempts to reverse the 2020 presidential election. Tendencies to resign his lifetime position. Threats of impeachment
The controversy surrounding Thomas’ advocacy of Virginia “Ginni”, his wife, has made matters more complicated.
According to reports, the conservative activist was in touch with Trump lawyers and top White House officials in relation to election integrity claims during the days preceding and up until the Jan. 6 riots. According to the couple, they maintain their professional lives apart.
Thomas has not indicated that he would withdraw from any case and also stated that he does not plan to retire anytime soon.
Thomas describes himself as a marathon runner who is looking for the long-term. Thomas’ views once were seen as outside the mainstream. Now, his influence is at its zenith and he occupies the heart of a strong conservative majority.
Thomas’ legacy extends beyond the Supreme Court. He mentored ten former law clerks who are now federal judges.
Recent remarks by Thomas, however, suggested that his court and the nation at large would continue to fall.