Don't Let Me Stop You

What the heck, you'll do what you want anyway.

Our Favorite Justice

Posted by Dan Draney on January 31, 2007

As much as we admire Justice Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas has long been our favorite on the SCOTUS. He is the true libertarian voice of the court, and he sticks strongly to his princples. In these days when judges are encouraged to manipulate their interpretations of the laws and the Constitution to achieve the desired (i.e. “progressive”) result, Justice Thomas’s “originalism” (the idea that the Constitution actually means what it says) is a welcome difference.

A free-thinking black man is a deadly thing for the liberal-left plantation owners, so he was attacked viciously, and absurdly in our view, during his confirmation hearings. These attacks persist to this day, although the form is different. Racist wags have tried to portray Thomas as Justice Scalia’s poodle, lacking any views of his own. Senator Harry Reid claimed that some of Justice Thomas’s legal opinions were “poorly written.” Reid doesn’t have the intellectual depth to carry Justice Thomas’s legal pads.

We were very pleased to read an excellent article on Justice Thomas in last week’s Wall Street Journal, which has now been reprinted on the free OpinionJournal web site. Far from being a Scalia echo, Thomas has had a major impact on the SCOTUS:

Consider a criminal case argued during Justice Thomas’s first week. It concerned a thief’s effort to get out of a Louisiana mental institution and the state’s desire to keep him there. Eight justices voted to side with the thief. Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that although it “may make eminent sense as a policy matter” to let the criminal out of the mental institution, nothing in the Constitution required “the states to conform to the policy preferences of federal judges.”

After he sent his dissenting opinion to the other justices, as is custom, Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Kennedy changed their votes. The case ended up 5-4.
Justice Thomas’s dissents persuaded Justice Scalia to change his mind several times that year. Even in Hudson v. McMillan, the case that prompted the New York Times to infamously label Justice Thomas the “youngest, cruelest justice,” he was again, initially, the lone dissenter. Justice Scalia changed his vote after he read Justice Thomas’s dissent, which said a prison inmate beaten by guards had several options for redress–but not under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

From the beginning, Justice Thomas was an independent voice. His brutal confirmation hearings only enforced his autonomy, making him impervious to criticism from the media and liberal law professors. He’d told his story, and no one listened. From then on, he did not care what they said about him.

He got Kelo right, too, God bless him. Read the rest of the story.

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