Justice Thomas: Twenty Years of Intellectual Clarity
Justice Clarence Thomas was sworn in on October 23, 1991, after a bruising confirmation. Say what you like about the elder Bush; the nomination of Clarence Thomas was a gift that keeps on giving. His fidelity to the original meaning of the Constitution is unmatched -- even by Justice Scalia (although Scalia's dissents are more fun to read). There's a great op-ed by Claremont McKenna professor Ralph A. Rossum detailing Thomas’s version of originalism (ht: NRO Bench Memos):
In the 446 opinions he has written since his confirmation, Thomas has assiduously pursued an original understanding approach to constitutional interpretation and a jurisprudence of constitutional restoration. He has been unswayed by the claims of precedent – by the gradual build-up of interpretations that, over time, completely distort the original understanding of the constitutional provision in question and lead to muddled decisions and contradictory conclusions.…
That is exactly what sets Justice Thomas apart. Upholding precedent ("stare decisis") is important for lower courts, but it is simply not the highest imperative of a constitutional court -- upholding the Constitution is. At least, that's my view -- John and Richard have gone back-and-forth on Thomas's jurisprudence here at Ricochet.
Thomas is a nightmare for liberals: fearless, intelligent, consistent. And that is why there has been a steadily increasing attack on him. NPR's Nina Tottenberg recently went out of her way to distort his record, as NRO's Ed Whelan recently reported. And that is also why Jeff Toobin's August profile of Thomas in the New Yorker was a thinly-veiled hit piece. Yes, the article starts with an acknowledgment of Thomas's influence -- but that was simply to make liberals pay attention. The rest of the article drags Thomas through the mud by replaying Anita Hill's accusations, and making the utterly preposterous claim that there were witnesses lined up to corroborate Hill's testimony but that "Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the time, decided not to call these witnesses." Of course! Joe Biden had it in his power to sink Thomas's nomination, but he just decided not to. Because that's just the sort of fair-minded non-partisan guy he is. What planet does Toobin live on?
But enough of that, let's raise a glass to Justice Thomas.