Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas

Overview
Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are the members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the Chief Justice of the United States...

. Succeeding Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991...

, Thomas is the second African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 to serve on the Court.

Thomas grew up in Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 and was educated at the College of the Holy Cross
College of the Holy Cross
The College of the Holy Cross is an undergraduate Roman Catholic liberal arts college located in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA...

 and at Yale Law School
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

. In 1974, he was appointed an Assistant Attorney General
Missouri Attorney General
The Office of the Missouri Attorney General was created in 1806 when Missouri was part of the Louisiana Territory. Missouri's first Constitution in 1820 provided for an appointed Attorney General, but since the 1865 Constitution, the Attorney General has been elected...

 in Missouri
Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

 and subsequently practiced law there in the private sector. In 1979, he became a legislative assistant
Legislative assistant
A legislative assistant is a legislative staffer who works for a legislator by monitoring pending legislation, conducting research, drafting legislation, giving advice and counsel, and making recommendations....

 to Missouri United States Senator John Danforth
John Danforth
John Claggett "Jack" Danforth is a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former Republican United States Senator from Missouri. He is an ordained Episcopal priest. Danforth is married to Sally D. Danforth and has five adult children.-Education and early career:Danforth was born...

 and in 1981 was appointed Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S.
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Quotations

For a time we wondered why our real father didn't come and rescue us, but we had long since accepted our fate by the time we finally met him.

Page 12

Long after the fact, it occurred to me that this was a metaphor for life- blisters come before calluses, vulnerability before maturity- but not even the thickest of skins could have spared us the lash of Daddy's tongue.

Pages 25-26

I began to suspect that Daddy had been right all along: the only hope I had of changing the world was to change myself first.

Page 60

The black people I knew came from different places and backgrounds- social, economic, even ethnic- yet the color of our skin was somehow supposed to make us identical in spite of our differences. I didn't buy it. Of course we had all experienced racism in one way or another, but did that mean that we had to think alike?

Page 62

I often had occasion to remind myself in years to come that self-interest isn't a principle- it's just self-interest.

Page 101

The popular political answers of the day, I saw, had hardened into dogma, making anyone who questioned them a heretic. Having turned my back on religion, I saw no reason to accept mere political opinions as gospel truth. Years later these same dogmatists would walk away from the wreckage of their failed policies, like children tossing aside a broken toy. But the victims they left behind were real people- my people.

Page 105

How often had he longed to hold us, hug us, grant our every wish, but held himself back for fear of letting us see his vulnerability, believing as he did that real love demanded not affection but discipline?

Page 112

I knew that until I was ready to tell the truth as I saw it, I was no better than a politician- but I didn't know whether I would ever be brave enough to break ranks and speak my mind.

Page 116
Encyclopedia
Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are the members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the Chief Justice of the United States...

. Succeeding Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991...

, Thomas is the second African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 to serve on the Court.

Thomas grew up in Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 and was educated at the College of the Holy Cross
College of the Holy Cross
The College of the Holy Cross is an undergraduate Roman Catholic liberal arts college located in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA...

 and at Yale Law School
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

. In 1974, he was appointed an Assistant Attorney General
Missouri Attorney General
The Office of the Missouri Attorney General was created in 1806 when Missouri was part of the Louisiana Territory. Missouri's first Constitution in 1820 provided for an appointed Attorney General, but since the 1865 Constitution, the Attorney General has been elected...

 in Missouri
Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

 and subsequently practiced law there in the private sector. In 1979, he became a legislative assistant
Legislative assistant
A legislative assistant is a legislative staffer who works for a legislator by monitoring pending legislation, conducting research, drafting legislation, giving advice and counsel, and making recommendations....

 to Missouri United States Senator John Danforth
John Danforth
John Claggett "Jack" Danforth is a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former Republican United States Senator from Missouri. He is an ordained Episcopal priest. Danforth is married to Sally D. Danforth and has five adult children.-Education and early career:Danforth was born...

 and in 1981 was appointed Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 appointed Thomas Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is an independent federal law enforcement agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination. The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, perceived intelligence,...

 (EEOC); he served in that position until 1990, when President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 nominated him for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit known informally as the D.C. Circuit, is the federal appellate court for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Appeals from the D.C. Circuit, as with all the U.S. Courts of Appeals, are heard on a...

.

On July 1, 1991, after 16 months of service as a judge, Thomas was nominated by Bush to fill Marshall's seat on the United States Supreme Court. Thomas's confirmation hearings
Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination
On July 1, 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court of the United States to replace Thurgood Marshall, who had announced his retirement...

 were bitter and intensely fought, centering on an accusation that he had made unwelcome sexual comments to attorney Anita Hill
Anita Hill
Anita Faye Hill is an American attorney and academic—presently a professor of social policy, law and women's studies at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She became a national figure in 1991 when she alleged that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had...

, a subordinate at the Department of Education and subsequently at the EEOC. The U.S. Senate ultimately confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52–48.

Since joining the Court, Thomas has taken a textualist approach, seeking to uphold what he sees as the original meaning
Original meaning
In the context of United States constitutional interpretation, original meaning is the dominant form of the legal theory of originalism today...

 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 and statutes. He is generally viewed as among the most conservative members of the Court. Thomas has often approached federalism
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

 issues in a way that limits the power of the federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 and expands power of state and local
Local government in the United States
Local government in the United States is generally structured in accordance with the laws of the various individual states. Typically each state has at least two separate tiers: counties and municipalities. Some states have their counties divided into townships...

 governments. At the same time, Thomas's opinions have generally supported a strong executive branch within the federal government.

Early life and education


Clarence Thomas was born in 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia
Pin Point, Georgia
Pin Point is an unincorporated community in Chatham County, Georgia, in the United States; it is located southeast of Savannah, Georgia, at . Pin Point is part of the Savannah Metropolitan Statistical Area....

, a small, predominantly black community founded by freedmen after the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. When he was a child, the town lacked a sewage system and paved roads. He was the second of three children born to M.C. Thomas, a farm worker, and Leola Williams, a domestic worker. They were descendants of American slaves, and the family spoke Gullah
Gullah language
Gullah is a creole language spoken by the Gullah people , an African American population living on the Sea Islands and the coastal region of the U.S...

 as a first language. Thomas's first-known ancestors were slaves named Sandy and Peggy who were born around the end of the 18th century and owned by wealthy Liberty County, Georgia
Liberty County, Georgia
Liberty County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia. As of 2000, the population was 61,610. The 2007 Census Estimate shows a population of 60,503...

 planter Josiah Wilson. M.C. Thomas left his family when Thomas was two years old. Thomas's mother worked hard but was sometimes paid only pennies per day. She had difficulty putting food on the table and was forced to rely on charity. After a house fire left them homeless, Thomas and his younger brother Myers were taken to live with his mother's parents in Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

. Thomas was seven when the family moved in with his maternal grandfather, Myers Anderson, and Anderson's wife, Christine (née Hargrove), in Savannah.

Living with his grandparents, Thomas enjoyed amenities such as indoor plumbing and regular meals for the first time in his life. His grandfather Myers Anderson had little formal education, but had built a thriving fuel oil
Fuel oil
Fuel oil is a fraction obtained from petroleum distillation, either as a distillate or a residue. Broadly speaking, fuel oil is any liquid petroleum product that is burned in a furnace or boiler for the generation of heat or used in an engine for the generation of power, except oils having a flash...

 business that also sold ice. Thomas calls his grandfather "the greatest man I have ever known." When Thomas was 10, Anderson started taking the family to help at a farm every day from sunrise to sunset. His grandfather believed in hard work and self-reliance; he would counsel Thomas to "never let the sun catch you in bed." Thomas's grandfather also impressed upon his grandsons the importance of getting a good education.

Thomas was the only black person at his high school in Savannah, where he was an honor student. He was raised Roman Catholic. (He later attended an Episcopal church with his first wife but returned to the Catholic Church in the late 1990s.) He considered entering the priesthood at the age of 16, and became the first black student to attend St. John Vianney's Minor Seminary (Savannah) on the Isle of Hope. He also briefly attended Conception Seminary College, a Roman Catholic seminary
Seminary
A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...

 in Missouri
Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

. No one in Thomas's family had attended college. Thomas has said that during his first year in seminary, he was one of only "three or four" blacks attending the school. Thomas told interviewers that he left the seminary in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He had overheard another student say after the shooting, "Good, I hope the son of a bitch died." He did not think the church did enough to combat racism.

At a nun's suggestion, Thomas attended the College of the Holy Cross
College of the Holy Cross
The College of the Holy Cross is an undergraduate Roman Catholic liberal arts college located in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA...

 in Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester is a city and the county seat of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population is 181,045, making it the second largest city in New England after Boston....

. While there, Thomas helped found the Black Student Union. Once he walked out after an incident in which black students were punished while white students went undisciplined for committing the same violation, and some of the priests negotiated with the protesting black students to return to school.

Having spoken the Gullah language
Gullah language
Gullah is a creole language spoken by the Gullah people , an African American population living on the Sea Islands and the coastal region of the U.S...

 as a child, Thomas realized in college that he still sounded unpolished despite having been drilled in grammar at school, and he chose to major in English literature "to conquer the language". At Holy Cross, he was also a member of Alpha Sigma Nu
Alpha Sigma Nu
Alpha Sigma Nu was founded at Marquette University in 1915 by John Danihy, S.J., Dean of Journalism. In his travels and reading, Father Danihy had encountered and admired honor societies...

 and the Purple Key Society. Among Thomas's classmates at Holy Cross were future defense attorney Ted Wells
Ted Wells
Ted Wells is a prominent criminal attorney. A litigation partner at the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the National Law Journal has selected Wells as one of America's best white-collar defense attorneys on numerous occasions. Wells received his B.A. from...

 and author Edward P. Jones
Edward P. Jones
Edward Paul Jones is an American novelist and short story writer. His 2003 novel The Known World received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.-Biography:...

, who won the Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 for his novel, The Known World
The Known World
The Known World is a 2003 historical novel by Edward P. Jones. It was his first novel and second book. Set in antebellum Virginia, it examines issues regarding the ownership of black slaves by free black people as well as by whites...

. Thomas graduated from Holy Cross in 1971 with an A.B. cum laude in English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

.

Thomas had a series of deferments from the military draft
Conscription in the United States
Conscription in the United States has been employed several times, usually during war but also during the nominal peace of the Cold War...

 while in college at Holy Cross. Upon graduation, he was classified as 1-A and received a low lottery number, indicating he might be drafted to serve in Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. Thomas failed his medical exam, due to curvature of the spine
Scoliosis
Scoliosis is a medical condition in which a person's spine is curved from side to side. Although it is a complex three-dimensional deformity, on an X-ray, viewed from the rear, the spine of an individual with scoliosis may look more like an "S" or a "C" than a straight line...

, and was not drafted. Thomas entered Yale Law School
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

, from which he received a Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 (J.D.) degree in 1974, graduating towards the middle of his class.

Thomas has recollected that his Yale law degree was not taken seriously by law firms to which he applied after graduating. He said that potential employers assumed he obtained it because of affirmative action
Affirmative action
Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

 policies. According to Thomas, he was "asked pointed questions, unsubtly suggesting that they doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated."


Influences


In 1975, when Thomas read Race and Economics
Race and Economics
Race and Economics is a book by Thomas Sowell that analyzes the relationship between race and wealth in the United States, specifically, that of blacks....

by economist Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author. A National Humanities Medal winner, he advocates laissez-faire economics and writes from a libertarian perspective...

, he found an intellectual foundation for this philosophy. The book criticized social reforms by government and instead argued for individual action to overcome circumstances and adversity. He was also influenced by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism....

, particularly The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead is a 1943 novel by Ayn Rand. It was Rand's first major literary success and brought her fame and financial success. More than 6.5 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide....

,
and would later require his staffers to watch the 1949 film version
The Fountainhead (film)
The Fountainhead is a 1949 American film directed by King Vidor, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Ayn Rand, who wrote the screenplay adaptation....

. Thomas later said that novelist Richard Wright
Richard Wright (author)
Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially those involving the plight of African-Americans during the late 19th to mid 20th centuries...

 had been the most influential writer in his life; Wright's books Native Son
Native Son
Native Son is a novel by American author Richard Wright. The novel tells the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s...

and Black Boy
Black Boy
Black Boy is an autobiography by Richard Wright. The author explores his childhood and race relations in the South. Wright eventually moves to Chicago, where he establishes his writing career and becomes involved with the Communist Party....

"capture[d] a lot of the feelings that I had inside that you learn how to repress." Thomas acknowledges having "some very strong libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 leanings".

Early career



Thomas was admitted to the Missouri bar on September 13, 1974. From 1974 to 1977, Thomas was an Assistant Attorney General of Missouri under then State Attorney General John Danforth
John Danforth
John Claggett "Jack" Danforth is a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former Republican United States Senator from Missouri. He is an ordained Episcopal priest. Danforth is married to Sally D. Danforth and has five adult children.-Education and early career:Danforth was born...

, who met Thomas at Yale Law School. Thomas was the only black member of Danforth's staff. As Assistant Attorney General, Thomas first worked at the criminal appeals division of Danforth's office and moved on to the revenue and taxation division. Retrospectively, Thomas considers Assistant Attorney General the best job he has ever had. When Danforth was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976 to 1979, Thomas left to become an attorney with Monsanto Company in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

. He moved to Washington, D.C. and returned to work for Danforth from 1979 to 1981 as a Legislative Assistant handling energy issues for the Senate Commerce Committee. The two men shared a common bond in that they had studied to be ordained (although in different denominations
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

). Danforth was to be instrumental in championing Thomas for the Supreme Court.

In 1981, he joined the Reagan administration. From 1981 to 1982, he served as Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights
Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights
The Office for Civil Rights is a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Education that is primarily focused on protecting civil rights in Federally assisted education programs and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, handicap, age, or membership in patriotic...

 in the U.S. Department of Education
United States Department of Education
The United States Department of Education, also referred to as ED or the ED for Education Department, is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government...

. From 1982 to 1990, he was Chairman of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is an independent federal law enforcement agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination. The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, perceived intelligence,...

 ("EEOC"). Journalist Evan Thomas
Evan Thomas
Evan Welling Thomas III is an American journalist and author. He currently teaches journalism at Princeton University.-Life and career:Thomas was born in Huntington, New York and was raised in Cold Spring Harbor, New York...

 characterized Thomas as "openly ambitious for higher office" during his tenure at the EEOC. As Chairman, he promoted a doctrine of self-reliance, and halted the usual EEOC approach of filing class-action discrimination lawsuits, instead pursuing acts of individual discrimination. He also asserted in 1984 that black leaders were "watching the destruction of our race" as they "bitch, bitch, bitch" about President Reagan instead of working with the Reagan administration to alleviate teenage pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy is a pregnancy of a female under the age of 20 when the pregnancy ends. It generally refers to a female who is unmarried and usually refers to an unplanned pregnancy...

, unemployment and illiteracy.

Federal judge


On October 30, 1989, Thomas was nominated by President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit known informally as the D.C. Circuit, is the federal appellate court for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Appeals from the D.C. Circuit, as with all the U.S. Courts of Appeals, are heard on a...

 vacated by Robert Bork
Robert Bork
Robert Heron Bork is an American legal scholar who has advocated the judicial philosophy of originalism. Bork formerly served as Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General, and judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit...

, despite Thomas's initial protestations that he would not like to be a judge. Thomas gained the support of other African Americans such as former Transportation Secretary William Coleman
William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr.
William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr. was the fourth United States Secretary of Transportation, from March 7, 1975 to January 20, 1977, and the second African American to serve in the Cabinet...

, but said that when meeting white Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 staffers in the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

, he was "struck by how easy it had become for sanctimonious whites to accuse a black man of not caring about civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

."

Thomas's confirmation hearing was uneventful. He was confirmed by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 on March 6, 1990, and received his commission the same day. He developed warm relationships during his 19 months on the federal court, including with fellow federal judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. She is the second female justice and the first Jewish female justice.She is generally viewed as belonging to...

.

Supreme Court nomination and confirmation



Justice William Brennan
William J. Brennan, Jr.
William Joseph Brennan, Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1956 to 1990...

 stepped down from the Supreme Court in July 1990. Thomas was one of five candidates on Bush's shortlist, and Bush's favorite of the five. Ultimately, after consulting with his advisors, Bush decided to hold off on nominating Thomas, and nominated Judge David Souter
David Souter
David Hackett Souter is a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1990 until his retirement on June 29, 2009. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush to fill the seat vacated by William J...

 of the First Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* District of Maine* District of Massachusetts...

 instead. Souter would disappoint conservatives, who had expected him to be more favorable towards them.

Less than a year later, on July 1, 1991 President Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall, who had just announced his retirement and had been the only African-American justice on the Court. Legal author Jeffrey Toobin
Jeffrey Toobin
Jeffrey Ross Toobin is an American lawyer, author, and legal analyst for CNN and The New Yorker.-Early life and education:...

 says Bush and others saw Thomas as the only "plausible" black candidate who would provide a reliably conservative vote. In announcing his selection, President Bush called Thomas the "best qualified [nominee] at this time."

In those days, U.S. presidents submitted lists of potential federal court nominees to the American Bar Association
American Bar Association
The American Bar Association , founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important stated activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation...

 (ABA) for a confidential rating of their judicial temperament, competence and integrity on a three-level scale of well qualified, qualified or unqualified. Anticipating that the ABA would rate Thomas more poorly than they thought he deserved, the White House and Republican Senators pressured the ABA for at least the mid-level qualified rating, and simultaneously attempted to discredit the ABA as partisan.Senior Republicans believed that Thomas was indeed well-qualified, but that the ABA would not support him because in their mind, the ABA had been politicized. The White House attempted to preemptively discredit the ABA as partisan, and Republican Senators threatened to bar the ABA from future participation if it gave Thomas anything less than a "qualified" rating. The ABA did rate Thomas as qualified, although with one of the lowest levels of support for a Supreme Court nominee. Ultimately, the ABA rating ended up having little impact on Thomas' nomination.

Some of the public statements of Thomas's opponents foreshadowed the confirmation fight that would occur. Both liberal interest groups and Republicans in the White House and Senate approached the nomination as a political campaign.

Attorney General Richard Thornburgh had previously warned Bush that replacing Thurgood Marshall, who was widely revered as a civil rights icon, with any candidate who was not perceived to share Marshall's views would make the confirmation process difficult. Civil rights and feminist organizations opposed the appointment based partially on Thomas's criticism of affirmative action
Affirmative action
Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

 and suspicions that Thomas might not be a supporter of Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade, , was a controversial landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. The Court decided that a right to privacy under the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion,...

.

Thomas's formal confirmation hearings began on September 10, 1991. Thomas was reticent when answering Senators' questions during the appointment process, recalling what had happened to Robert Bork
Robert Bork
Robert Heron Bork is an American legal scholar who has advocated the judicial philosophy of originalism. Bork formerly served as Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General, and judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit...

 when Bork expounded on his judicial philosophy during his conformation hearings
Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination
The Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination refers to the 1987 nomination by President Ronald Reagan of Judge Robert Bork to serve as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate rejected his nomination.-Nomination:...

 four years prior. Thomas's earlier writings had frequently referenced the legal theory of natural law
Natural law
Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

; during his confirmation hearings Thomas limited himself to the statement that he regards natural law
Natural law
Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

 as a "philosophical background" to the Constitution. Thomas himself later asserted in his autobiography that in the course of his professional career, he had not developed a judicial philosophy.

Anita Hill allegations


Toward the end of the confirmation hearings, an FBI interview with Anita Hill
Anita Hill
Anita Faye Hill is an American attorney and academic—presently a professor of social policy, law and women's studies at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She became a national figure in 1991 when she alleged that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had...

 was leaked. Hill, an attorney, had worked for Thomas at the Department of Education and had subsequently moved with Thomas to the EEOC. After the leak, Hill was called to testify at Thomas's confirmation hearings. She testified that Thomas had subjected her to comments of a sexual nature, which she felt constituted sexual harassment or at least "behavior that is unbefitting an individual who will be a member of the Court." Hill's testimony included lurid details, and some Senators aggressively questioned her.

Thomas denied the allegations, saying:
Hill was the only person to testify at the Senate hearings that there had been unsolicited sexual advances. Angela Wright, who worked under Thomas at the EEOC before he fired her, decided not to testify, but submitted a written statement alleging that Thomas had pressured her for a date and had made comments about the anatomy of women. However, she said she did not feel his behavior was intimidating nor did she feel sexually harassed, though she allowed that "Some other women might have". Also, Sukari Hardnett, a former Thomas assistant, wrote to the Senate committee saying that although Thomas had not harassed her, she did feel that he had inspected her as a female.

Other former colleagues testified on Thomas's behalf. Nancy Altman, who shared an office with Thomas at the Department of Education, testified that she heard virtually everything Thomas said over the course of two years, and never heard any sexist or offensive comment. Altman did not find it credible that Thomas could have engaged in the conduct alleged by Hill, without any of the dozens of women he worked with noticing it. Senator Alan K. Simpson
Alan K. Simpson
Alan Kooi Simpson is an American politician who served from 1979 to 1997 as a United States Senator from Wyoming as a member of the Republican Party. His father, Milward L. Simpson, was also a member of the U.S...

 was puzzled about why Hill and Thomas met, dined, and spoke by phone on various occasions after they no longer worked together.

According to the Oyez Project
Oyez.org
The Oyez Project at the Chicago-Kent College of Law is an unofficial online multimedia archive of the Supreme Court of the United States, especially audio of oral arguments...

, there was a lack of convincing proof produced at the Senate hearings. After extensive debate, the Judiciary Committee split 7–7 on September 27, sending the nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation. Thomas was confirmed by a 52–48 vote on October 15, 1991, the narrowest margin for approval in more than a century. The final floor vote was mostly along party lines: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted to confirm while 46 Democrats and two Republicans voted to reject the nomination. Newspaper coverage of Thomas's private life was limited after he was confirmed.

Thomas received his commission and took the two required oaths several days after the Senate vote; this process was delayed by the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist's
William Rehnquist
William Hubbs Rehnquist was an American lawyer, jurist, and political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States...

 wife, but the delay was reduced at the request of Thomas. He indicated that he was eager to get to work, and an additional reason for reducing the delay was to end further media inquiry into Thomas's private life. Reporters largely stopped such inquiries after Thomas joined the Court, despite new information potentially corroborating some of Hill's testimony including her description of Thomas's alleged entertainment preferences. Throughout this episode, Thomas defended his right to privacy, refused to describe discussions that he may have had outside the workplace regarding his personal life, and promised that he would not allow anyone to probe his private life.

The debate over who was telling the truth continues. Clarence Thomas wrote an autobiography
My Grandfather's Son
My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir is the 2007 memoir of Clarence Thomas, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.The book spans all of Thomas's life to the present, beginning with his early childhood in the Deep South and his mother's decision to send him and his brother to be raised...

 addressing Anita Hill's allegations, and she also wrote an autobiography addressing her experience in the hearings.

Early years on the Court


Upon his appointment, Thomas was generally perceived as joining the conservative wing of the Court, voting most frequently with Chief Justice Rehnquist
William Rehnquist
William Hubbs Rehnquist was an American lawyer, jurist, and political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States...

 and Justice Scalia
Antonin Scalia
Antonin Gregory Scalia is an American jurist who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia is the Senior Associate Justice...

. Though most Justices, including Marshall, whom he was replacing, immediately welcomed Thomas, law clerks of some liberal justices viewed him with contempt, questioning his qualifications and intellectual heft. Legal reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg
Jan Crawford Greenburg
Jan Crawford, formerly known as Jan Crawford Greenburg, is a television journalist, author, and lawyer. She currently serves as both the political correspondent and chief legal correspondent for CBS News and appears regularly on the CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, Early Show, and CBS News Sunday...

 says that pundits' portrayal of Thomas as Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia
Antonin Gregory Scalia is an American jurist who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia is the Senior Associate Justice...

's understudy
Understudy
In theater, an understudy is a performer who learns the lines and blocking/choreography of a regular actor or actress in a play. Should the regular actor or actress be unable to appear on stage because of illness or emergencies, the understudy takes over the part...

 was grossly inaccurate – she says that from early on, it was more often Scalia changing his mind to agree with Thomas, rather than the other way around. On the other hand, Greenburg suggests that the forcefulness of Thomas's views pushed Justices Souter, Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor is an American jurist who was the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States. She served as an Associate Justice from 1981 until her retirement from the Court in 2006. O'Connor was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981...

, and Anthony Kennedy
Anthony Kennedy
Anthony McLeod Kennedy is an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, having been appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Since the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, Kennedy has often been the swing vote on many of the Court's politically charged 5–4 decisions...

 away.

Public perception


Thomas has rarely given media interviews during his time on the Court. He said in 2007: "One of the reasons I don't do media interviews is, in the past, the media often has its own script." In 2007, Thomas received a $1.5 million advance for writing his memoir, My Grandfather's Son
My Grandfather's Son
My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir is the 2007 memoir of Clarence Thomas, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.The book spans all of Thomas's life to the present, beginning with his early childhood in the Deep South and his mother's decision to send him and his brother to be raised...

; it became a bestseller.

Thomas biographer Scott Douglas Gerber has opined that attacks against Thomas from critics such as Jeffrey Toobin have been unusually vitriolic, which Gerber attributes in part to liberals’ disappointment that Thomas has departed so much from the jurisprudence of the African American whom he succeeded, Thurgood Marshall. Additional possible causes for the harsh criticism of Thomas may be the inherently explosive nature of sexual misconduct accusations, the suspicion among some people that Thomas was less than forthcoming during his confirmation hearings, and the belief in some circles that Thomas has benefited from affirmative action programs like ones he has criticized as a judge.

In 2006, Thomas had a 48% favorable, 36% unfavorable rating, according to Rasmussen Reports.

Conservatism and originalism


Thomas is often described as an originalist and a member of the conservative wing of the Supreme Court. He is also often described as the most conservative member of the Supreme Court, although others give Justice Scalia that designation. Scalia and Thomas have similar but not identical judicial philosophies, and pundits speculate about the degree to which Scalia thinks some of Thomas's views are implausible.

Thomas has also been described as a textualist whose jurisprudence is similar to that of Justice Hugo Black
Hugo Black
Hugo Lafayette Black was an American politician and jurist. A member of the Democratic Party, Black represented Alabama in the United States Senate from 1927 to 1937, and served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 to 1971. Black was nominated to the Supreme...

, who "resisted the tendency to create social policy out of 'whole cloth.'" According to the same commentator, Thomas generally declines to engage in what he sees as judicial lawmaking, and instead views the constitutional role of the Court as being the interpretation of law, rather than the making of law.

Voting alignment


On average, from 1994 to 2004, Scalia and Thomas had an 86.7% voting alignment, the highest on the Court, followed by Ginsburg and Souter (85.6%). Scalia and Thomas's agreement rate peaked in 1996, at 97.7%. By 2004, however, other pairs of justices were observed to be more closely aligned than Scalia and Thomas.

The conventional wisdom that Thomas's votes follow Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia
Antonin Gregory Scalia is an American jurist who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia is the Senior Associate Justice...

's is reflected by Linda Greenhouse's observation that Thomas voted with Scalia 91 percent of the time during October Term 2006, and with Justice John Paul Stevens
John Paul Stevens
John Paul Stevens served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from December 19, 1975 until his retirement on June 29, 2010. At the time of his retirement, he was the oldest member of the Court and the third-longest serving justice in the Court's history...

 the least, 36% of the time. Statistics compiled annually by Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog
SCOTUSblog
SCOTUSblog is a law blog written by lawyers and law students about the Supreme Court of the United States . The blog is sponsored by Bloomberg Law. The blog's first post occurred October 1, 2002. The blog moved to its current address on February 7, 2005. In the same year, it was featured by...

 demonstrate that Greenhouse's count is methodology-specific, counting non-unanimous cases where Scalia and Thomas voted for the same litigant, regardless of whether they got there by the same reasoning. Goldstein's statistics show that the two agreed in full only 74% of the time, and that the frequency of agreement between Scalia and Thomas is not as outstanding as is often implied by pieces aimed at lay audiences. For example, in that same term, Souter and Ginsburg voted together 81% of the time by the method of counting that yields a 74% agreement between Thomas and Scalia. By the metric that produces the 91% Scalia/Thomas figure, Ginsburg and Breyer agreed 90% of the time. Roberts and Alito agreed 94% of the time.

Legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg
Jan Crawford Greenburg
Jan Crawford, formerly known as Jan Crawford Greenburg, is a television journalist, author, and lawyer. She currently serves as both the political correspondent and chief legal correspondent for CBS News and appears regularly on the CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, Early Show, and CBS News Sunday...

 wrote in her book on the Supreme Court that Thomas's forceful views moved moderates like Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor is an American jurist who was the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States. She served as an Associate Justice from 1981 until her retirement from the Court in 2006. O'Connor was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981...

 further to the left, but frequently attracted votes from Rehnquist and Scalia. Mark Tushnet
Mark Tushnet
Mark Victor Tushnet is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. A prominent scholar of constitutional law and legal history, he is the author of many books and articles.-Career:...

 and Jeffrey Toobin both observe that Rehnquist rarely assigned important majority opinions to Thomas, because the latter's views made it difficult for him to persuade a majority of justices to join him.

Number of dissenting opinions


From 1994 to 2004, on average, Thomas was the third most frequent dissenter on the Court, behind Stevens and Scalia. Four other justices dissented as frequently in 2007. Three other justices dissented as frequently in 2006. One other justice dissented as frequently in 2005.

Stare decisis



According to law professor Michael J. Gerhardt, Thomas has supported leaving a broad spectrum of constitutional decisions intact. Thomas supports statutory stare decisis
Stare decisis
Stare decisis is a legal principle by which judges are obliged to respect the precedents established by prior decisions...

. During his confirmation hearings Thomas said: "[S]tare decisis provides continuity to our system, it provides predictability, and in our process of case-by-case decision making, I think it is a very important and critical concept." Among the thirteen justices who served on the Rehnquist Court, Thomas ranked eleventh for the number of votes he cast overturning precedent (without accounting for length of Court service). However, on a frequency basis, he urged overruling and joined in overruling precedents more frequently than any other justice.

According to Scalia, Thomas is more willing to overrule constitutional cases: "If a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say let's get it right. I wouldn't do that." Thomas's belief in originalism is strong; he has said, "When faced with a clash of constitutional principle and a line of unreasoned cases wholly divorced from the text, history, and structure of our founding document, we should not hesitate to resolve the tension in favor of the Constitution's original meaning." Thomas believes that an erroneous decision can and should be overturned, no matter how old it is.

Commerce Clause


Thomas has consistently supported narrowing the Court's interpretation of the Constitution's Interstate Commerce Clause (which is often simply called the "Commerce Clause") to limit federal power. At the same time, Thomas has broadly interpreted states' sovereign immunity
Sovereign immunity
Sovereign immunity, or crown immunity, is a legal doctrine by which the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution....

 from lawsuits under the Commerce Clause.

In United States v. Lopez
United States v. Lopez
United States v. Alfonso Lopez, Jr., was the first United States Supreme Court case since the New Deal to set limits to Congress's power under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.-Background:...

and United States v. Morrison
United States v. Morrison
United States v. Morrison, is a United States Supreme Court decision which held that parts of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 were unconstitutional because they exceeded congressional power under the Commerce Clause and under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.-...

, the Court held that Congress lacked power under the Commerce Clause to regulate non-commercial activities. In these cases, Thomas wrote a separate concurring opinion arguing for the original meaning of the Commerce Clause. Subsequently, in Gonzales v. Raich
Gonzales v. Raich
Gonzales v. Raich , 545 U.S. 1 , was a decision by the United States Supreme Court ruling that under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, the United States Congress may criminalize the production and use of home-grown cannabis even where states approve its use for medicinal...

, the Court interpreted the Interstate Commerce Clause combined with the Necessary and Proper Clause to empower the federal government to arrest, prosecute, and imprison patients who used marijuana grown at home for medicinal purposes. Thomas dissented in Raich, again arguing for the original meaning of the Commerce Clause.

Thomas and Scalia have rejected the notion of a Dormant Commerce Clause
Dormant Commerce Clause
The "Dormant" Commerce Clause, also known as the "Negative" Commerce Clause, is a legal doctrine that courts in the United States have inferred from the Commerce Clause in Article I of the United States Constitution...

, also known as the "Negative Commerce Clause". That doctrine bars state commercial regulation even if Congress has not yet acted on the matter.

In Lopez, Thomas expressed his view that federal regulation of either manufacturing or agriculture is unconstitutional; he sees both as outside the scope of the Commerce Clause. He believes federal legislators have overextended the Commerce Clause, while some of his critics argue that Thomas's position on Congressional authority would invalidate much of the contemporary work of the federal government. According to Thomas, it is not the Court's job to update the Constitution. Proponents of broad national power such as Professor Michael Dorf
Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf is an American law professor and a noted U.S. constitutional law scholar. He is currently a Professor of Law at Cornell Law School. In addition to constitutional law, Professor Dorf has taught courses in civil procedure and federal courts...

 deny that they are trying to update the Constitution. Instead, they argue that they are merely addressing a set of economic facts that did not exist when the Constitution was framed.

Federalism


Federalism
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

 was a central part of the Rehnquist Court's constitutional agenda. Thomas consistently voted for outcomes that promoted state-governmental authority, in cases involving federalism-based limits on Congress's enumerated powers. According to law professor Ann Althouse
Ann Althouse
Ann Althouse is an American law professor and blogger. Raised in Newark and Wilmington, Delaware , Althouse has a degree in fine art from the University of Michigan, B.F.A. 1973, and graduated first in her class from New York University School of Law, J.D. 1981. She clerked for Judge Leonard B...

, the Court has yet to move toward "the broader, more principled version of federalism propounded by Justice Thomas."

In Foucha v. Louisiana
Foucha v. Louisiana
Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U.S. 71 , was a U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court addressed the criteria for the continued commitment of an individual who had been found not guilty by reason of insanity...

, Thomas dissented from the majority opinion that required the removal from a mental institution of a prisoner who had become sane. The Court held that a Louisiana statute violated the Due Process Clause "because it allows an insanity acquittee to be committed to a mental institution until he is able to demonstrate that he is not dangerous to himself and others, even though he does not suffer from any mental illness." Dissenting, Thomas cast the issue as a matter of federalism. "Removing sane insanity acquittees from mental institutions may make eminent sense as a policy matter," he concluded, "but the Due Process Clause does not require the States to conform to the policy preferences of federal judges."

Privileges, immunities, and firearms


Thomas agreed with the judgment in McDonald v. Chicago
McDonald v. Chicago
McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025, 130 S.Ct. 3020 , was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that determined whether the Second Amendment applies to the individual states...

(2010) that the right to keep and bear arms
Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights.In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two Second...

 is applicable to state and local governments, but Thomas wrote a separate concurrence finding that an individual's right to bear arms is fundamental as a privilege of American citizenship under the Privileges or Immunities Clause
Privileges or Immunities Clause
The Privileges or Immunities Clause is Amendment XIV, Section 1, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution. It states:Along with the rest of the Fourteenth Amendment, this clause became part of the Constitution on July 9, 1868....

 rather than as a fundamental right under the due process clause
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

. The four justices in the plurality opinion
Plurality opinion
A plurality opinion is the opinion from a group of justices, often in an appellate court, in which no single opinion received the support of a majority of the court. The plurality opinion did not receive the support of more than half the justices, but received more support than any other...

 specifically rejected incorporation under the privileges or immunities clause, "declin[ing] to disturb" the holding in the Slaughter-House Cases, which, according to the plurality, had held that the clause applied only to federal matters.

Executive power


Thomas has argued that the executive branch has broad authority under the Constitution and federal statutes. In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 was a U.S. Supreme Court decision reversing the dismissal of a habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen being detained indefinitely as an "illegal enemy combatant." The Court recognized the power of the government to detain enemy...

,
he was the only justice who agreed with the Fourth Circuit that Congress had power to authorize the President's detention of US citizens who are enemy combatants. Thomas granted the federal government the "strongest presumptions" and said "due process requires nothing more than a good-faith executive determination" to justify the imprisonment of Hamdi, a US citizen.

Thomas also was one of three justices who dissented in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 , is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay lack "the power to proceed because its structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military...

, which held that the military commissions
Guantanamo military commission
The Guantanamo military commissions are military tribunals created by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 for prosecuting detainees held in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camps.- History :...

 set up by the Bush administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay
Guantanamo Bay detainment camp
The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a detainment and interrogation facility of the United States located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. The facility was established in 2002 by the Bush Administration to hold detainees from the war in Afghanistan and later Iraq...

 required explicit congressional authorization, and held that the commissions conflicted with both the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)
Uniform Code of Military Justice
The Uniform Code of Military Justice , is the foundation of military law in the United States. It is was established by the United States Congress in accordance with the authority given by the United States Constitution in Article I, Section 8, which provides that "The Congress shall have Power . ....

 and "at least" Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

. Thomas argued that Hamdan was an illegal combatant and therefore not protected by the Geneva Convention, and he agreed with Justice Scalia that the Court was "patently erroneous" in its declaration of jurisdiction in this case.

Free speech


Among the nine justices, Thomas was the second most likely to uphold free speech claims (tied with David Souter
David Souter
David Hackett Souter is a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1990 until his retirement on June 29, 2009. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush to fill the seat vacated by William J...

), as of 2002. He has voted in favor of First Amendment
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

 claims in cases involving a wide variety of issues, including pornography, campaign contributions
Campaign finance
Campaign finance refers to all funds that are raised and spent in order to promote candidates, parties or policies in some sort of electoral contest. In modern democracies such funds are not necessarily devoted to election campaigns. Issue campaigns in referendums, party activities and party...

, political leafleting, religious speech, and commercial speech
Commercial speech
Commercial Speech is speech done on behalf of a company or individual for the intent of making a profit. It is economic in nature and usually has the intent of convincing the audience to partake in a particular action, often purchasing a specific product...

.

On occasion, however, he has disagreed with free speech claimants. For example, he dissented in Virginia v. Black
Virginia v. Black
Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 , was a First Amendment case decided in the Supreme Court of the United States. Three defendants were convicted in two separate cases of violating a Virginia statute against cross burning. In this case, the Court struck down that statute to the extent that it...

, a case that struck down a Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 statute that banned cross burning
Cross burning
Cross burning or cross lighting is a practice widely associated with the Ku Klux Klan, although the historical practice long predates the Klan's inception...

. Concurring in Morse v. Frederick, he argued that students' free speech rights in public schools are limited.

Thomas authored the decision in ACLU v. Ashcroft
American Civil Liberties Union v. Ashcroft (2002)
Ashc, 535 U.S. 564 was a 2002 United States legal court case involving the American Civil Liberties Union and the United States government...

, which held that the Child Online Protection Act
Child Online Protection Act
The Child Online Protection Act was a law in the United States of America, passed in 1998 with the declared purpose of restricting access by minors to any material defined as harmful to such minors on the Internet...

 might (or might not) be constitutional. The government was enjoined from enforcing it, pending further proceedings in the lower courts.

Thomas wrote a concurrence in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission
McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission
McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that an Ohio statute that prohibits anonymous political or campaign literature is unconstitutional...

, 514 U.S. 334
Case citation
Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

 (1995).

Fourth Amendment


In cases regarding the Fourth Amendment
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause...

, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures
Search and seizure
Search and seizure is a legal procedure used in many civil law and common law legal systems whereby police or other authorities and their agents, who suspect that a crime has been committed, do a search of a person's property and confiscate any relevant evidence to the crime.Some countries have...

, Thomas often favors police over defendant
Defendant
A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute...

s. For example, his opinion for the Court in Board of Education v. Earls
Board of Education v. Earls
Board of Education v. Earls, , was a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that upheld the constitutionality of mandatory drug testing by public schools of students participating in extracurricular activities...

upheld drug testing for students involved in extracurricular activities, and he wrote again for the Court in Samson v. California
Samson v. California
Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843 , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the decision of the California Court of Appeal; which held that suspicionless searches of parolees are lawful under California law and that the search in this case was reasonable under the...

, permitting random searches on parole
Parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

es. He dissented in the case Georgia v. Randolph
Georgia v. Randolph
Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 , is a case wherein the U.S. Supreme Court held that without a search warrant, police had no constitutional right to search a house where one resident consents to the search while another resident objects. The Court distinguished this case from the "co-occupant...

, which prohibited warrantless searches that one resident approves and the other opposes, arguing that the case was controlled by the Court's decision in Coolidge v. New Hampshire
Coolidge v. New Hampshire
Coolidge v. New Hampshire, was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with the Fourth Amendment and the automobile exception.The state sought to justify the search of Edward Coolidge's car on three theories: automobile exception, search incident, and plain view.Facts of the Case:In the wake of...

. In Indianapolis v. Edmond, Thomas described the Court's extant case law as having held that "suspicionless roadblock seizures are constitutionally permissible if conducted according to a plan that limits the discretion of the officers conducting the stops." Although he expressed doubt that those cases were correctly decided, he concluded that since the litigants in the case at bar had not briefed or argued that the earlier cases be overruled, he believed that the Court should assume their validity and rule accordingly. There are counterexamples, however: he was in the majority in Kyllo v. United States
Kyllo v. United States
Kyllo v. United States, , held that the use of a thermal imaging device from a public vantage point to monitor the radiation of heat from a person's home was a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and thus required a warrant...

, which held that the use of thermal imaging technology to probe a suspect's home, without a warrant, violated the Fourth Amendment.

In cases involving schools, Thomas has advocated greater respect for the doctrine of in loco parentis
In loco parentis
The term in loco parentis, Latin for "in the place of a parent"" refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent...

, which he defines as "parents delegat[ing] to teachers their authority to discipline and maintain order." His dissent in Safford Unified School District v. Redding
Safford Unified School District v. Redding
Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 557 U.S. __ , was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. It held that a strip search of a middle schooler violated the Fourth Amendment where the school lacked reasons to suspect either that the drugs presented a danger or that they...

illustrates his application of this postulate in the Fourth Amendment context. School officials in the Safford case had a reasonable suspicion that 13-year-old Savana Redding was illegally distributing prescription-only drugs. All the justices concurred that it was therefore reasonable for the school officials to search Redding, and the main issue before the Court was only whether the search went too far by becoming a strip search
Strip search
A strip search is the stripping of a person to check for weapons or other contraband.-Legality of strip searches:...

 or the like. All justices but Thomas concluded that this search violated the Fourth Amendment. The majority required a finding of danger or reason to believe drugs were hidden in a student's underwear in order to justify a strip search. In contrast, Thomas said, "It is a mistake for judges to assume the responsibility for deciding which school rules are important enough to allow for invasive searches and which rules are not" and that "reasonable suspicion that Redding was in possession of drugs in violation of these policies, therefore, justified a search extending to any area where small pills could be concealed." Thomas said, "There can be no doubt that a parent would have had the authority to conduct the search."

Sixth Amendment


In Doggett v. United States
Doggett v. United States
Doggett v. United States, , was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. Doggett was indicted in 1980 on drug related charges, but having left the US before he could be arrested, was considered a fugitive. He returned to the US in 1982 and proceeded to live a seemingly normal life...

, the defendant had technically been a fugitive from the time he was indicted in 1980 until his arrest in 1988. The Court held that the delay between indictment and arrest violated Doggett's Sixth Amendment
Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights which sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions...

 right to a speedy trial
Speedy trial
Speedy trial refers to one of the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution to defendants in criminal proceedings. The right to a speedy trial, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, is intended to ensure that defendants are not subjected to unreasonably lengthy incarceration prior to a fair...

, finding that the government had been negligent in pursuing him and that he was unaware of the indictment. Thomas dissented, arguing that the purpose of the Speedy Trial Clause was to prevent "'undue and oppressive incarceration' and the 'anxiety and concern accompanying public accusation'" and that the case implicated neither. He cast the case as instead "present[ing] the question [of] whether, independent of these core concerns, the Speedy Trial Clause protects an accused from two additional harms: (1) prejudice to his ability to defend himself caused by the passage of time; and (2) disruption of his life years after the alleged commission of his crime." Thomas dissented from the Court's decision to, as he saw it, answer the former in the affirmative. Thomas wrote that dismissing the conviction "invites the Nation's judges to indulge in ad hoc and result-driven second guessing of the government's investigatory efforts. Our Constitution neither contemplates nor tolerates such a role."

Eighth Amendment and capital punishment


Thomas was among the dissenters in Atkins v. Virginia
Atkins v. Virginia
Atkins v. Virginia, , is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 6-3 that executing the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments.-The case:...

and Roper v. Simmons
Roper v. Simmons
Roper v. Simmons, was a decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that it is unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for crimes committed while under the age of 18. The 5-4 decision overruled the Court's prior ruling upholding such sentences on offenders above or at the...

, which held that the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this amendment's Cruel and Unusual...

 prohibits the application of the death penalty to certain classes of persons. In Kansas v. Marsh
Kansas v. Marsh
Kansas v. Marsh, 548 U.S. 163 , is a case decided by the United States Supreme Court. The Court held that a Kansas death penalty statute was consistent with the U.S...

, his opinion for the Court indicated a belief that the Constitution affords states broad procedural latitude in imposing the death penalty, provided they remain within the limits of Furman v. Georgia
Furman v. Georgia
Furman v. Georgia, was a United States Supreme Court decision that ruled on the requirement for a degree of consistency in the application of the death penalty. The case led to a de facto moratorium on capital punishment throughout the United States, which came to an end when Gregg v. Georgia was...

and Gregg v. Georgia
Gregg v. Georgia
Gregg v. Georgia, Proffitt v. Florida, Jurek v. Texas, Woodson v. North Carolina, and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 153 , reaffirmed the United States Supreme Court's acceptance of the use of the death penalty in the United States, upholding, in particular, the death sentence imposed on Troy Leon...

, the 1976 case in which the Court had reversed its 1972 ban on death sentences if states followed procedural guidelines.

In Hudson v. McMillian
Hudson v. McMillian
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 , is a United States Supreme Court decision where the Court on a 7-2 vote held that the use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment even though the inmate does not suffer serious injury.-Opinion:Justice Sandra Day...

, a prisoner had been beaten, garnering a cracked lip, broken dental plate, loosened teeth, and cuts and bruises. Although these were not "serious injuries", the Court believed, it held that "the use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment even though the inmate does not suffer serious injury." Dissenting, Thomas wrote that, in his view, "a use of force that causes only insignificant harm to a prisoner may be immoral, it may be tortious, it may be criminal, and it may even be remediable under other provisions of the Federal Constitution, but it is not 'cruel and unusual punishment'. In concluding to the contrary, the Court today goes far beyond our precedents." Thomas's vote – in one of his first cases after joining the Court – was an early example of his willingness to be the sole dissenter (Scalia later joined the opinion). Thomas's opinion was criticized by the 7-member majority of the Court, which wrote that by comparing physical assault to other prison conditions such as poor prison food, Thomas's opinion ignored "the concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency that animate the Eighth Amendment". According to historian David Garrow
David Garrow
David J. Garrow is an American historian and author of the book Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. He is also the author of Liberty and Sexuality, a history of the legal struggles over...

, Thomas's dissent in Hudson was a "classic call for federal judicial restraint, reminiscent of views that were held by Felix Frankfurter
Felix Frankfurter
Felix Frankfurter was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.-Early life:Frankfurter was born into a Jewish family on November 15, 1882, in Vienna, Austria, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Europe. He was the third of six children of Leopold and Emma Frankfurter...

 and John M. Harlan II a generation earlier, but editorial criticism rained down on him". Thomas would later respond to the accusation "that I supported the beating of prisoners in that case. Well, one must either be illiterate or fraught with malice to reach that conclusion ... no honest reading can reach such a conclusion."

In United States v. Bajakajian
United States v. Bajakajian
United States v. Bajakajian, , is a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the Excessive Fines clause of the Eighth Amendment...

, Thomas joined with the Court's more liberal bloc to write the majority opinion declaring a fine unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. The fine was for failing to declare over $300,000 in a suitcase on an international flight. Under a federal statute, (a)(1), the passenger would have had to forfeit the entire amount. Thomas noted that the case required a distinction to be made between civil forfeiture and a fine exacted with the intention of punishing the respondent. He found that the forfeiture in this case was clearly intended as a punishment at least in part, was "grossly disproportional", and a violation of the Excessive Fines Clause.

Church and state


Law professor and former Thomas clerk John Yoo
John Yoo
John Choon Yoo is an American attorney, law professor, and author. As a former official in the United States Department of Justice during the George W...

 says Thomas supports allowing religious groups more participation in public life. Thomas says the Establishment Clause ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion") "is best understood as a federalism provision –- it protects state establishments from federal interference but does not protect any individual right."

In Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow
Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow
Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., 542 U.S. 1 , was a lawsuit originally filed in 2000 which led to a 2002 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are an endorsement of...

and Cutter v. Wilkinson
Cutter v. Wilkinson
Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 , is a case decided by the United States Supreme Court on May 31, 2005, which holds that under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act , prisoners in facilities that accept federal funds cannot be denied accommodations necessary to engage in...

, Thomas wrote that he supported incorporation of the Free Exercise Clause, which he says "clearly protects an individual right." He said that any law that would violate the Establishment Clause might also violate the Free Exercise Clause.

Thomas says "it makes little sense to incorporate the Establishment Clause" vis-à-vis the states by the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

. And in Cutter, he wrote: "The text and history of the Clause may well support the view that the Clause is not incorporated against the States precisely because the Clause shielded state establishments from congressional interference."

Equal protection and affirmative action


Thomas believes that the Equal Protection Clause
Equal Protection Clause
The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"...

 of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids consideration of race, such as race-based affirmative action or preferential treatment. In Adarand Constructors v. Peña, for example, he wrote "there is a 'moral [and] constitutional equivalence' between laws designed to subjugate a race and those that distribute benefits on the basis of race in order to foster some current notion of equality. Government cannot make us equal; it can only recognize, respect, and protect us as equal before the law. That [affirmative action] programs may have been motivated, in part, by good intentions cannot provide refuge from the principle that under our Constitution, the government may not make distinctions on the basis of race."

In Gratz v. Bollinger
Gratz v. Bollinger
Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 , was a United States Supreme Court case regarding the University of Michigan undergraduate affirmative action admissions policy...

, Thomas said that, in his view, "a State's use of racial discrimination in higher education admissions is categorically prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause." In Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1
Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1
Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 , decided together with Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, is a decision of the U.S...

, Thomas joined the opinion of Chief Justice Roberts, who concluded that "[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Concurring, Thomas wrote that "if our history has taught us anything, it has taught us to beware of elites bearing racial theories," and charged that the dissent carried "similarities" to the arguments of the segregationist litigants in Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 , was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which...

. In Grutter v. Bollinger
Grutter v. Bollinger
Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School...

, he approvingly quoted Justice Harlan's Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses , under the doctrine of "separate but equal".The decision was handed...

dissent: "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens."

Abortion


Thomas has contended that the constitution does not address the issue of abortion. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey
Planned Parenthood v. Casey
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in which the constitutionality of several Pennsylvania state regulations regarding abortion were challenged...

(1992), the Court reaffirmed Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade, , was a controversial landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. The Court decided that a right to privacy under the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion,...

. Thomas along with Justice Byron White
Byron White
Byron Raymond "Whizzer" White won fame both as a football halfback and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed to the court by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, he served until his retirement in 1993...

 joined the dissenting opinions of Chief Justice
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 William Rehnquist
William Rehnquist
William Hubbs Rehnquist was an American lawyer, jurist, and political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States...

 and Justice Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia
Antonin Gregory Scalia is an American jurist who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia is the Senior Associate Justice...

. Rehnquist wrote that "[w]e believe Roe was wrongly decided, and that it can and should be overruled consistently with our traditional approach to stare decisis in constitutional cases." Scalia's opinion concluded that the right to obtain an abortion is not "a liberty protected by the Constitution of the United States." "[T]he Constitution says absolutely nothing about it," Scalia wrote, "and [ ] the longstanding traditions of American society have permitted it to be legally proscribed."

In Stenberg v. Carhart
Stenberg v. Carhart
Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 , is a case heard by the Supreme Court of the United States dealing with a Nebraska law which made performing partial-birth abortion illegal, except where necessary to save the life of the mother. Nebraska physicians who performed the procedure contrary to the law...

(2000), the Court struck down a state ban on partial-birth abortion, concluding that it failed the "undue burden" test established in Casey. Thomas dissented, writing: "Although a State may permit abortion, nothing in the Constitution dictates that a State must do so." He went on to criticize the reasoning of the Casey and Stenberg majorities: "The majority's insistence on a health exception is a fig leaf barely covering its hostility to any abortion regulation by the States – a hostility that Casey purported to reject."

In Gonzales v. Carhart
Gonzales v. Carhart
Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 , is a United States Supreme Court case that upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The case reached the high court after U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appealed a ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in favor of...

(2007), the Court rejected a facial challenge
Facial challenge
In the context of American jurisprudence, a facial challenge is a challenge to a statute in court, in which the plaintiff alleges that the legislation is always, and under all circumstances, unconstitutional, and therefore void...

 to a federal ban on partial-birth abortion. Concurring, Thomas asserted that the Court's abortion jurisprudence had no basis in the Constitution, but that the Court had accurately applied that jurisprudence in rejecting the challenge. Thomas added that the Court was not deciding the question of whether Congress had the power to outlaw partial birth abortions: [W]hether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court [in this case] ... the parties did not raise or brief that issue; it is outside the question presented; and the lower courts did not address it."

Gay rights


In Lawrence v. Texas
Lawrence v. Texas
Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court case. In the 6-3 ruling, the Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by proxy, invalidated sodomy laws in the thirteen other states where they remained in existence, thereby making same-sex sexual activity legal in...

(2003), Thomas issued a one-page dissent where he called the Texas anti-gay sodomy statute "uncommonly silly." He then said that if he were a member of the Texas legislature he would vote to repeal the law. Since he was not a member of the state legislature, but instead a federal judge, and the Due Process Clause did not (in his view) touch on the subject, he could not vote to strike it down. Accordingly, Thomas saw the issue as a matter for the states to decide for themselves.

In Romer v. Evans
Romer v. Evans
Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court case dealing with civil rights and state laws. It was the first Supreme Court case to deal with LGBT rights since Bowers v...

(1996), Thomas joined Scalia's dissenting opinion arguing that Amendment 2 to the Colorado State Constitution did not violate the Equal Protection Clause
Equal Protection Clause
The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"...

 of the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 to the U. S. Constitution. The Colorado amendment forbade any judicial, legislative, or executive action designed to protect persons from discrimination based on "homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships."

Judicial review


Thomas is the justice most willing to exercise judicial review
Judicial review
Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

 of federal laws. According to a New York Times editorial, "from 1994 to 2005 ... Justice Thomas voted to overturn federal laws in 34 cases and Justice Scalia in 31, compared with just 15 for Justice Stephen Breyer."

In 2009's Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder
Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder
Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, 557 U.S. ___ , was a decision of the United States Supreme Court regarding Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and in particular its requirement that proposed electoral-law changes in certain states must first receive pre-clearance from...

, Thomas was the sole dissenter, voting in favor of throwing out Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires states with a history of racial voter discrimination—mostly states from the old South—to get Justice Department clearance when revising election procedures. Though Congress had reauthorized Section 5 in 2006 for another 25 years, Thomas said the law was no longer necessary, pointing out that the rate of black voting in seven Section 5 states was higher than the national average. Thomas said "the violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains."

Approach to oral arguments


Thomas is well known for his reticence during oral argument. , he had not asked a question from the bench in almost 5 years. He 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. In 2000, he told a group of high school students that "if you wait long enough, someone will ask your question." In November 2007, he told an audience at Hillsdale College
Hillsdale College
Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, United States, is a co-educational liberal arts college known for being the first American college to prohibit in its charter all discrimination based on race, religion, or sex; its refusal of government funding; and its monthly publication, Imprimis...

: "My colleagues should shut up!" He later explained, "I don't think that for judging, and for what we are doing, all those questions are necessary." Thomas's speaking and listening habits may have also been influenced by his Gullah
Gullah
The Gullah are African Americans who live in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia, which includes both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands....

 upbringing, during which time his English was relatively unpolished.

Thomas is not the first quiet justice. In the 1970s and 1980s, William J. Brennan
William J. Brennan, Jr.
William Joseph Brennan, Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1956 to 1990...

, Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991...

, and Harry Blackmun
Harry Blackmun
Harold Andrew Blackmun was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1970 until 1994. He is best known as the author of Roe v. Wade.- Early years and professional career :...

 were likewise generally quiet. However, Thomas's silence stood out in the 1990s as the other eight justices engaged in active questioning.

Personal life


In 1971, Thomas married college sweetheart Kathy Grace Ambush. They had one child, Jamal Adeen. In 1981 they separated and in 1984 divorced. In 1987, Thomas married Virginia Lamp
Virginia Lamp Thomas
Virginia "Ginni" Lamp Thomas is an American attorney who is the founder and president of the conservative advocacy group Liberty Central; and the head of Liberty Consulting, Inc. Thomas previously worked at The Heritage Foundation. She is the wife of U.S...

, a lobbyist and aide to Republican Congressman Dick Armey
Dick Armey
Richard Keith "Dick" Armey is a former U.S. Representative from Texas's and House Majority Leader . He was one of the engineers of the "Republican Revolution" of the 1990s, in which Republicans were elected to majorities of both houses of Congress for the first time in four decades. Armey was...

. In 1997, they took in Thomas's then six-year-old great nephew, Mark Martin, Jr., who had lived with his mother in Savannah public housing.

Thomas's wife remained active in conservative politics, serving as a consultant to the Heritage Foundation
Heritage Foundation
The Heritage Foundation is a conservative American think tank based in Washington, D.C. Heritage's stated mission is to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong...

, a conservative think tank
Think tank
A think tank is an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, and technology issues. Most think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax...

, and as founder and president of Liberty Central
Liberty Central
Liberty Central is a non-profit conservative political advocacy group founded in 2009 by Virginia Thomas, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice, Clarence Thomas. Virginia Thomas is the President and CEO. Its declared purpose is stated on its website as "America’s Public Square. We...

, an advocacy group associated with the Tea Party movement
Tea Party movement
The Tea Party movement is an American populist political movement that is generally recognized as conservative and libertarian, and has sponsored protests and supported political candidates since 2009...

. As of 2011, Thomas's wife stepped down from Liberty Central to open a conservative lobbying firm
Lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

 touting her "experience and connections", meeting with newly elected Republican congressmen, and describing herself as an "ambassador to the tea party".

Thomas was reconciled to the Catholic Church in the mid-1990s. He remains a practicing Catholic. In his 2007 autobiography, he criticized the Church for its failure to grapple with racism in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement, saying it was not as "adamant about ending racism then as it is about ending abortion now". Thomas is one of thirteen Catholic justices—out of 110 justices total—in the history of the Supreme Court, and one of six currently on the Court.

Thomas has a reputation as an affable, good-humored man who is extremely personally popular with his friends and colleagues. According to writer Jeffrey Toobin
Jeffrey Toobin
Jeffrey Ross Toobin is an American lawyer, author, and legal analyst for CNN and The New Yorker.-Early life and education:...

, "Fellow justices, law clerks, police officers, cafeteria workers, janitors – all basked in Thomas's effusive good nature. His rolling basso laughter frequently pierced the silence of the Court's hushed corridors." He is particularly close to fellow justice (and ideological opponent) Stephen Breyer
Stephen Breyer
Stephen Gerald Breyer is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and known for his pragmatic approach to constitutional law, Breyer is generally associated with the more liberal side of the Court....

, and the two are frequently seen at the Court's oral arguments whispering, laughing, and passing notes.

In January 2011, the liberal advocacy group Common Cause
Common Cause
Common Cause is a self-described nonpartisan, nonprofit lobby and advocacy organization. It was founded in 1970 by John W. Gardner, a Republican former cabinet secretary under Lyndon Johnson, as a "citizens' lobby" with a mission focused on making U.S. political institutions more open and...

 reported that between 2003 and 2007 Thomas failed to disclose $686,589 in income earned by his wife from the Heritage Foundation, instead reporting "none" where "spousal noninvestment income" would be reported on his Supreme Court financial disclosure forms. The following week, Thomas stated that the disclosure of his wife's income had been "inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions". Thomas amended reports going back to 1989.

Writings

  • Thomas, Clarence. "Why Federalism Matters," Drake Law Review, Volume 48, Issue 2, page 234 (2000).

See also





External links




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