Clarence Thomas is no Thurgood Marshall
On October 15, 1991, Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 52-48 vote by the Senate. This was the narrowest margin of confirmation in over a century. Thomas is the second African-American to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
Justice Thomas’s confirmation did not come without controversy; the Senate hearings where Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment nearly cost him his seat on the Supreme Court. The sexual harassment claims are likely responsible for the marginal confirmation vote, and there are public figures and officials who regret not speaking out against Thomas to the present day.
Justice Thomas is a conservative justice who purports an originalist interpretation of the Constitution. Justice Thomas has opposed Roe v. Wade (abortion rights) and school desegregation.
Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court, by George H.W. Bush, to fill the seat of Justice Thurgood Marshall, who has a historical record of civil rights litigation and leadership.
Clarence Thomas may have been nominated to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall, but he is no replacement for the stature of a man who made major, historic contributions to the case law of the Supreme Court, even prior to Marshall’s appointment to the Court.
Even with the understanding that these two justices are on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum as judicially possible, it is clear to see that their qualifications are in complete contrast if you examine their careers before their Court appointments.
The examples moving forward will show that Clarence Thomas is the antithesis (opposition) of the late Thurgood Marshall.
Legal experience before the Court
Before becoming a Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) in 1940, which is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights law firm. Marshall argued over 30 civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, where he lost only 3 decisions in all.
Starting in 1965, in the office of U.S. Solicitor General, Marshall amassed a record of 14-5 in cases he argued in front of the Supreme Court, on behalf of the government. Marshall represented and won more cases than any other American.
In 1967, Marshall was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson and appointed to the Supreme Court, and became the first African American ever appointed to the Court.
Now let’s look at the beginnings of Justice Thomas.
Before Justice Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court, his first aspiration was to become a Catholic priest, at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Missouri.
In 1968, the year Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Thomas decided to change his career field, after overhearing a fellow student making fun of King’s death. He moved north to Holy Cross College in Massachusetts, and studied English.
Thomas got involved in social causes at the college, such as protesting the Vietnam War, campaigning for civil rights, and helping to establish the Black Student Union.
After graduating from college, he went to Yale University Law School where his views became more conservative.
After law school, Thomas worked for Attorney General John Danforth as an assistant.
From 1976 to 1979, Thomas worked as a lawyer for the agricultural giant Monsanto, and shortly afterwards he moved to Washington D.C., where he received several appointments from President Ronald Reagan.
Another president, George H.W. Bush, nominated Thomas to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 1991, George Bush nominated Thomas to replace the retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court.
On October 15, Thomas was confirmed to the Court, amidst a swarm of criticism and controversy. A former aide of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Anita Hill, testified at the Senate Confirmation hearings that Thomas sexually harassed her during the time the two worked together, where Thomas was appointed chair in 1982. Some critics opposed Thomas’s confirmation for his conservative views, particularly civil and women’s rights groups.
Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court with one of the most marginal confirmation votes in U.S. history (52-48).
When it comes the judicial ethics, these two justices are as different as an angel and a demon.
The U.S. Constitution addresses Supreme Court judges, in regards to their ethical obligation and its connection to their service on the Court.
Article 3, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution states:
“The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour,…”; this means that justices are to adhere to the highest legal, ethical conduct, during their service on the Supreme Court or any lower court, otherwise expose themselves to impeachment and removal from the Court.
In regards to the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, his tenure as associate justice was a stellar example of judicial, ethical behavior, and an unsurpassed loyalty to justice.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Justice Clarence Thomas.
Justice Thomas has made decisions in cases where there were clear conflicts of interests, with one example being the Court decision of Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms (2010). As stated earlier, Thomas worked as a lawyer for Monsanto from 1976 to 1979. A recusal by Justice Thomas in this case would have held the Court to its highest integrity, but Thomas opted not to do so. His decision not to do so raises a serious ethical question as to whether Justice Thomas’s vote was one of personal interests, rather than one of constitutional concern.
On October 5, 2012, the Supreme Court decided to hear a case between Monsanto Company and a soybean farmer. The Obama Administration has urged the Court not to hear the case because “the outcome could affect patents involving DNA molecules, nanotechnologies, and other self-replicating technologies.” Justice Thomas will most likely not recuse himself from this case, despite the requests for him to do so.
Justice Thomas and his wife have accepted gifts from Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate tycoon and major contributor to conservative causes. They met in the mid 1990s, just before Thomas joined the Court. The Thomas family has received many gifts from Crow, such as funding for a museum in Justice Thomas’s birthplace of Pin Point, Georgia, a $15,000 bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass, as well as providing Mrs. Thomas with $500,000 to start a TEA Party-related organization, dedicated to appealing Obamacare.
Justice Thomas also failed to report his wife’s income (Virginia Thomas) for at least five years (between 2003-2007), where she earned $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank that is funded by the Koch Brothers. Justice Thomas did not fix the discrepancy on his income statement until it was pointed out to him.
In conclusion, it is clear that Clarence Thomas is the antithesis of the late Thurgood Marshall. In reference to legal ability and accomplishments, there is no comparison. When it comes to ethical conduct, Marshall is the epitome of judicial integrity, while Thomas is a scandalous wretch, who could easily be impeached, if the House wasn’t filled with TEA Party members who would surely defend his inexcusable behavior, since all signs point to him and his wife having invested interests in TEA Party activities.
Justice Clarence Thomas; The best token justice money can buy.