Legal critics pillory Justice Clarence Thomas for ‘speaking out against something he is actively doing’

Legal critics pillory Justice Clarence Thomas for ‘speaking out against something he is actively doing’
(Official White House photo by Tia Dufour)

President Donald J. Trump, joined by associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, applauds Amy Coney Barrett following her swearing-in as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House.

Critics are observing Constitution Day by responding to remarks U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made on Thursday, when he blasted the media for criticizing decisions from the nation's highest court and warning federal judges to not wade in to political discussions.

"When we begin to venture into the legislative or executive branch lanes, those of us, particularly in the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments, are asking for trouble," Justice Thomas said, CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue reports, ironically observing that Justice Thomas made those remarks "during a sweeping lecture at the University of Notre Dame that also touched on themes of equality, race and the state of the country."

The CNN report adds:

Of all the members of the high court, Thomas has made his views on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion across the US, crystal clear. In 2007, he said that he believed that Roe and the follow-up decision called Planned Parenthood v. Casey had "no basis in the Constitution." And in 2020, he said that Roe is "grievously wrong for many reasons, but the most fundamental is that its core holding — that the Constitution protects a woman's right to abort her unborn child — finds no support in the text of the Fourteenth Amendment."

Thomas also on Thursday "seemed to nod to the controversy" of "so-called court packing":

"We have lost the capacity" as leaders "to not allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don't get the outcomes that we like," he said


Critics, including legal experts are weighing on on Justice Thomas's remarks, blasting him for, as Daily Beast editor-at-large Molly Jong-Fast says, "speaking out against something he is actively doing."

Keith Boykin, a CNN political commentator who earned his law degree at Harvard and served in the Clinton White House was even more pointed:

"Clarence Thomas didn't seem too worried about 'destroying our institutions' when he cast the deciding vote to make Bush president in 2000 or to gut the Voting Rights Act in 2013 or when he sat silently from 2017-2021 as Trump trashed our institutions."

Dr. Miranda Yaver, a political science professor (US law, public policy, health policy) at Oberlin blasted Justice Thomas, saying that "claiming that the Supreme Court isn't political is nonsense and we all know it. FWIW, whenever I teach Constitutional Law and students go, 'Who in the hell would write that opinion??' the answer is invariably Clarence Thomas."

Norman Ornstein, a political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), laughed:

Vox senior correspondent Ian Millhiser, author of "The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court is Reshaping America," also criticizes Thomas's apparent hypocrisy:


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