Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas has now been on the Court for a generation, and his impact is clear.
This is a man who was enmeshed in controversy when he was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to replace Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall as the second African American in the history of the Supreme Court. He was clearly the “anti Marshall”, and has remained in controversy ever since 1991.
Thomas was accused by African American law professor Anita Hill of sexual harassment, and accused liberals of a “lynching”, and only was approved by a vote of 52-48 in the Senate, the closest of the 20th century. He has, in a memoir in 2007 and before and since, continued to have bitterness and resentment toward liberals and his other critics, and said when he was confirmed that he would confound the “damn liberals” by staying on the Court for 43 years, the age he was when appointed, which would surpass Justice William O. Douglas’s 36 years on the Court, the longest in Supreme Court history. His wife strangely contacted Anita Hill last year to ask for an “apology”, which was not forthcoming, but continues to simmer in his wife’s mind after a generation.
Thomas’s wife has been involved in ethical problems as the head of a conservative organization working against the Obama Health Care law, and in other ways, working with the Tea Party Movement, while her husband is involved in decisions where his wife’s activities create ethical problems for him, although he is unwilling to react to any criticism by recusing himself from cases, as creating a conflict of interest. He does not care what his critics say!
On the Court, he is seen in many ways as the MOST conservative member, even more than Antonin Scalia in some ways. He is well liked by his colleagues, but almost never asks any questions in oral arguments before the Court. He gives lectures around the country, but avoids the news media. He comes across as bitter and odd in many ways, but also arrogant and hard to fathom.
Thomas has shown willingness to strike down case law going back decades, and sometimes even a century. He is the only one to argue for consistent return to the “original” meaning of the Constitution when it was adopted in 1789, even more than Antonin Scalia. He sees the Court as having gone the wrong way in many areas of the law, and wanting reversal of past rulings.
Thomas alone believes that states should be able to establish an official religion; believes teenagers have no free speech rights at all; believes business should not be regulated and their commercial speech and campaign activities should not be regulated; wants to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act; and backs the President’s ability to hold an American citizen in prison indefinitely without charges or review by the courts.
Thomas refuses to see prisoner rights as legitimate and is against affirmative action to the extreme, even though he benefited from it himself! He spends his time only with people who agree with his hard line views, which many think is a shame, as it indicates he has a closed mind.
So Clarence Thomas continues to have a long range, in many ways deleterious effect on the Supreme Court, and probably will for close to another generation, as he predicted!