Justice Clarence Thomas: Influencer of the Supreme Court

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Fast forward to 2021, this is the most important term in recent history. The judges are ready to decide on a major abortion case and expand gun rights in a dispute outside of New York.

At the same time, he has accumulated more than 100 former clerks, some of whom are loyal followers continue to serve at the highest levels of the government and the judiciary. He began a tradition of taking his legal assistant—he called his “child”—to the Gettysburg battlefield at the end of each semester to remind them of the country’s past.

Thomas-stealing a word from the culture of Generation Z-is now an influential man.

At an event celebrating his legacy hosted by the Heritage Foundation on Thursday night, Thomas addressed a group of conservative believers, mentioning his harder days and thanking those who helped him.

He said that being able to “celebrate this moment is an absolute joy, not because of me, but because of all of you and what we are trying to defend in this great country.”

He was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky. McConnell called Thomas a “legal giant.”

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McConnell was mainly responsible for pushing President Donald Trump’s nominee on the bench, angering liberals by preventing President Barack Obama’s nominee from citing the then upcoming presidential election, but then carefully before Trump failed. Planned the nomination of Justice Amy Connie Barrett. He called Thomas “the brightest North Star.”

“At the risk of sounding greedy,” McConnell said, “we want 30 more years.”

Thomas said he was “a bit embarrassed” about this attention because he was “100% introverted” and he thanked “countless people I don’t know”-calling them “angels in very, very dark times.”

“I thank all 52 senators for voting for me,” Thomas said with a smile. “Hey, you only need 50.”

(Thomas was confirmed by 52 votes to 48 in 1991. His nomination was almost derailed after he filed allegations of sexual harassment with Hill, a former employee of the Ministry of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)

Before he made his remarks, top appellate lawyers and judges from the highest levels of the judiciary-many of them former clerks-gathered in Washington for Thomas-only the second African-American to serve in court- And his legacy was celebrated.

The panelists at the event discussed his views on the First Amendment, religion and race, and his efforts to restrict the powers of federal agencies and the so-called “administrative state”. They praised him for sticking to the judicial philosophy called “originalism”, and he firmly believed that the courts were not always bound by past precedents, even if a decision had been written in the book for decades.

After the incident, he returned to work to process the late-night death penalty application that is still being processed.

What’s in front

It’s too early for any complete comments for this semester, but behind the scenes, the homework has already started. Because of his qualifications, when Roberts disagrees and Thomas has the majority, Thomas will assign opinions. This fact alone can influence the Chief Justice’s future thinking.
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On September 1, a 5-4 vote caused a national storm to allow the six-week abortion ban in Texas to take effect during the appeal period, almost invalidating Roe v. Wade in the state. In December, the court will also adopt a Mississippi law that prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks. The state is asking the court to overturn Roe-a landmark decision that has existed for nearly 50 years.

There is no doubt about Thomas’ vote. For example, in June 2020, he wrote that Roy was “greatly wrong.”

On Thursday, McConnell praised Thomas’ case law in the area.

“Take his precedent for unborn life as an example,” McConnell said. “Every time there is no failure, Justice Thomas wrote a separate, concise opinion to solve the entanglement of the test and changing standards fabricated over the past 50 years, and calmly reminded everyone that the entire House of Cards lacks a constitution. Basics,” he said.

The judges will also hear the Second Amendment case in November.

As early as 2008, in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to possess and carry weapons at home for self-defense. Except for the follow-up decision two years later, the judges have basically stayed away from this issue-angering gun rights advocates and even some judges themselves.

In 2017, accompanied by Justice Neil Gorsuch, Thomas expressed his frustration. He wrote: “I think it is extremely impossible for the framers to understand that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect guns from the bedroom to the kitchen.”

For years, Thomas has been urging his colleagues to deal with another case, and now they have done so.

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This semester, the court will consider the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Brunn, which involves a New York State law that restricts individuals from carrying hidden pistols in public.

It requires residents to obtain a permit to carry a concealed pistol or revolver and to prove that there is a “just cause” for the permit. Residents must show that they are in great need of permits and that they are facing “special or unique danger to their lives”.

The justices may also deal with a case concerning affirmative action, if not for this term, perhaps the next term. In 2013, Thomas made his point of view on this issue. “The equal protection clause explicitly prohibits the state from using race in higher education admission decisions,” he said.

Former clerks with significant influence in the judicial sector

In the Heritage event, Thomas’ clerk pointed out that Thomas’ model, just like in the affirmative action case, expressed his views, and hoped that they would one day become the opinion of the majority.

Judge Alison Jones Lahin is Trump’s nominee for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and a former secretary of Thomas. She specifically discussed Thomas’ influence.

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“He has persuaded his colleagues to come together,” she said, and even in a recent case, a 6-3 court divided according to familiar ideological lines, invalidating a California regulation that requires charitable organizations Disclosure of the names of donors. This case has been closely watched by campaign finance reform supporters, who believe that the ruling will eventually lead to more anonymous funds entering the political realm. Thomas agreed with the decision, stating that the “right to assembly” includes the right to “anonymously associate.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the main objection for her liberal colleagues. “The disclosure requirement directly increases the burden of the right to associate has always been the view of Justice Thomas, but the court has never thought so,” she said.

Not surprisingly, another former clerk, William Consovo, who was also the chief lawyer behind the affirmative action challenge, challenged Harvard’s admissions policy to the High Court. Konsovo also served as a lawyer for President Donald Trump when he tried to prevent the New York State Attorney from issuing subpoenas for his tax returns.

During the Trump administration, several former Thomas clerks held important positions.

Both Neomi Rao and Gregory Katsas worked in the executive branch, and they were then appointed to a powerful court of appeals in Washington, DC.

Jeffrey Wall served as the acting attorney general of the Trump administration and supported Trump’s controversial travel ban. Another Trump nominee, James Ho, served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and voted to allow the six-week abortion ban in Texas to take effect. Two high-level sources said that if Trump had the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court justice, Stanley Ho would be at the top of the list.

Carrie Severino is the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, an organization that played an important role in supporting nominees for the Trump administration.

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On Thursday night, Thomas thanked them all. “I love my child,” he said. “These are my children. They have spent a year with me. They will never escape. I like to be a part of their lives.”

But as many of his former clerks are advancing to make laws, Thomas is still laying the groundwork for the question he hopes to get a majority one day.

For example, he called for reconsideration of the landmark First Amendment, the New York Times v. Sullivan, calling it a policy-driven decision “disguised as the Constitution.” He suggested that Congress weigh whether it should update the law to better regulate social media platforms.

In 2019, he explained his views on the Indiana abortion law, which makes it illegal for doctors to perform abortions only because of race, gender, Down syndrome diagnosis, or fetal disability. The court stated that it would refuse to file petitions on other legal issues that have not been considered by the Court of Appeal in accordance with “our normal practice,” thereby retaining the lower court opinion that invalidated the legal provisions.

In a consensual opinion, Thomas agreed with the court’s decision to refuse “immediately deal with this issue.” But he continued to warn his colleagues that abortion may “become a tool for manipulating eugenics.” He said the court “will soon have to face whether a law like Indiana is constitutional.”

It is worth noting that in April of this year, a federal court of appeals upheld an Ohio law that prohibits doctors from performing abortions when they know that the cause is due to a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. The judges did not all agree with the reasoning, but quoted the opinions of eugenics and Thomas on page 111.


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