Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 17, 2009
LAW: Knowing Where To Look

The New York Times headlines an article about an appearance by Clarence Thomas before a high school group "Reticent Justice Opens Up to a Group of Students." What's amusing is that after Justice Thomas has spent 18 years on the Court, the Times still thinks it's newsworthy that he would speak to a student group simply because he does not ask questions at oral argument (a practice he has explained and defended and which was once more of a norm on the Court). In fact, anyone remotely familiar with the Court will tell you that Justice Thomas has long been very active, perhaps the most active Justice on the Court, in meeting with visitors from the general public (when I was in college, in the spring of 1992, he took 45 minutes to meet with a group of 12 of us who were in DC for Holy Cross' semester-in-Washington program, and I gather he's been doing that ever since), he's a frequent speaker at events around the country - he even wrote a deeply personal autobiography that may have escaped the Times' notice. (Note also Adam Liptak's shot at Thomas giving a "rambling" answer to a question - we are compelled to take his word for it, although of course it's rare to hear an unscripted Q&A with anybody without a few of those answers).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 AM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

His comments make you wonder if the Bill of Rights Institute regretted their choice for speaker. Nevertheless, his message that too much emphasis is being placed on "rights" is one that needs to be heard - and by that very audience.

It probably would have been more effective if he didn't express a desire to return to an age that has since passed and for which his audience had no real frame of reference.

Posted by: MVH at April 17, 2009 11:58 AM

The Times is rightly castigated for its bias and its propaganda agenda. Too often, its incompetence goes unremarked. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether someone is guilty of corruption or incompetence (see e.g. how often the Clintons admitted to gross incompetence in order to deflect charges of corruption or criminality). With the Times, it is safe to assume that both are at work.

Posted by: stan at April 17, 2009 3:36 PM

The article seemed pretty fair. Reticent doesn't have a negative connotation. He was described as plain-spoken and wary of ostentation, which aren't bad things either. This isn't a big deal, unless he was misquoted somehow.

Posted by: MVH at April 17, 2009 4:41 PM

Justice Thomas came across as full of resentment and bitterness. He has no business being on the Supreme Court and George H.W. Bush's description of him as the "most quailified" is a joke. But, he was duly nominated and confirmed, though he seems a sad, pathetic figure and I feel sorry for what seems to be a miserablle daily life.

Posted by: Magrooder at April 18, 2009 4:08 PM

Thomas has been on the Court 18 years, so his qualifications as of 1991 are no longer relevant except as they bring perspective to debates over new Justices; he's long past the point of rookie mistakes. That said, he's obviously proven himself to have been more than adequately capable of doing the job; he's a much more rigorous and systematic thinker, and far less sloppy a judge, than Justices like Douglas, O'Connor, or Blackmun. We got lucky in that respect.

If the Democrats thought "most qualified" was the standard, they wouldn't have trashed Bork. In retrospect, I'm hopeful that the success of Roberts and Alito and the failure of Miers may put an end to the era that was inaugurated by Congress rejecting Bork and Republicans responding by nominating people like then-Judges Souter and Thomas on the basis of fairly thin paper trails.

Posted by: Crank at April 18, 2009 5:40 PM

Yep--Democrats have no one but themselves to blame for Thomas being on the Court, and the petty "sore loser" sniping at him for the temerity of having beaten them will continue until long after he (and they) are dead and gone.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at April 19, 2009 3:48 PM

The Senate, in exercising its duty to advise and consent is well within its rights to reject nominees on the basis of their ideological positions. Qualified or not, that was a sufficient grounds for rejecting Bork (and Thomas, for that matter).

Thomas has been duly confirmed, so this is moot, but I am personally acquainted with a number of the people on the Anita Hill side of the story and I have little doubt that Thomas lied under oath.

Posted by: Magrooder at April 19, 2009 10:54 PM

Thomas was not at all qualified in 1991. He's qualified now. But his views are abhorrent (sp?) to me and I praise the Lord that Obama will never appoint someone like Thomas. Bork was qualified intellectually, but he was another reactionary with horrible temperament. Thank God the Democrats rejected Bork.

Posted by: steve at April 20, 2009 12:12 PM
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