Sunday, September 30, 2007

Justice Thomas on CBS News

In a preview of tonight's 60 Minutes interview, CBS has two short videos online about Justice Clarence Thomas. See here and here.

UPDATE: This page has links to the full video and transcripts.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Cert. Memo for Planned Parenthood v. Casey

Planned Parenthood v. Casey is a 1992 case that was famous for upholding Roe v. Wade, thanks to a trifecta of Republican-appointed Justices (Kennedy, Souter, and O'Connor) that joined with the Court's liberals. Thanks to Lee Epstein of Northwestern Univ. School of Law, a new digital archive of the papers of Harry Blackmun is coming online. Blackmun seems to have kept copies of all the "cert. memos" from various years on the Court -- these are the memos written by one Justice's clerk and circulated to the Court as a whole in order to recommend whether the Supreme Court ought to grant certiorari, that is, whether they should hear the case.

The cert. memo for Planned Parenthood v. Casey is now available here. It was written by Justice Clarence Thomas's clerk Stephen McAllister.

ABCNews on the Autobiography

Justice Thomas Breaks Silence on Bitter Confirmation Hearings:
* * *

Throughout the book, Thomas describes wrestling with "the beast of rage" -- a beast he says he learned to put to rest when he turned away from radical politics as a college student and began embracing the conservative ideology that has now come to define him as a justice. But that rage resurfaces as he recounts the details of his confirmation fight and the events leading up to it. Thomas describes his relationship with Hill over the years, painting her as a difficult and insecure employee who, he implies, had feelings for him. He hired Hill to work for him at the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education, he says, as a favor to a friend -- a "fateful blunder." At the time, she had been working at a top law firm -- and when he asked her why she wanted to leave to go work at an obscure government agency, he says she told him a partner at the firm had asked her out and -- after she said no -- began giving her bad work assignments. Hill's work, according to Thomas "wasn't outstanding," but he found it "adequate."

He says she later followed him to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, telling him: "You're a rising star." They later had a falling-out of sorts when he passed her over for a promotion, and says he was relieved when she left the EEOC to take a job in academia. After that, he says he heard from her from time to time, "almost always when she wanted something."

On the day Hill held her first press conference, Thomas describes his reaction: "I lost my grip," asking, "How could someone I'd tried to help turn on me so viciously?" That night, he says, he went home and "curled up in a fetal position." In what Thomas describes as a "dark night of the soul," he says he had a stark realization: "I'd been nominated to sit on the Supreme Court -- but my refusal to swallow the liberal pieties that had done so much damage to blacks in America meant that I had to be destroyed."

Thomas was, of course, confirmed -- by a margin of 52 to 48. His reaction upon hearing that news from his wife: "Whoop-dee damn-do." He says he thought to himself: "Where do I go to get my reputation back?"

Justice Thomas's Autobiography

Thanks to How Appealing, the first news stories about Justice Clarence Thomas's autobiography have started to emerge. Of course, journalists are looking to emphasize material about Anita Hill, but it looks like Justice Thomas doesn't pull any punches in describing his enemies:
Justice Thomas Lashes Out in Memoir

Justice Clarence Thomas settles scores in an angry and vivid forthcoming memoir, scathingly condemning the media, the Democratic senators who opposed his nomination to the Supreme Court, and the "mob" of liberal elites and activist groups that he says desecrated his life.

* * *

Racial imagery abounds in "My Grandfather's Son," a continuation of his description of the Senate hearings as a "high-tech lynching."

"As a child in the Deep South, I'd grown up fearing the lynch mobs of the Ku Klux Klan; as an adult, I was starting to wonder if I'd been afraid of the wrong white people all along," he writes. "My worst fears had come to pass not in Georgia, but in Washington, D.C., where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony."

Thomas writes that he did not watch Hill's televised testimony against him at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and so he does not respond in detail to her charges except to call them lies. He describes Hill as "touchy and apt to overreact" and says: "If I or anyone else had done the slightest thing to offend her, she would have complained loudly and instantly, not waited for a decade to make her displeasure known."

He writes that Hill did a "mediocre" job at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he was chairman, and misrepresented herself at the time of the hearings as a "devoutly religious Reagan-administration employee." "In fact, she was a left-winger who'd never expressed any religious sentiments" and had a job in the administration "because I'd given it to her."

Thomas has particularly caustic comments about the Democratic senators who opposed his nomination. He compares then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) to the lying hypocrites in the old song "Smiling Faces Sometimes" by Undisputed Truth. About former senator Howard Metzenbaum (Ohio): "It would be kind to describe him as unlikable."

And Howell Heflin, the late senator from Alabama, was described by the press as "courtly," Thomas says, but his manner "made me think of a slave owner sitting on the porch of a plantation house."
Justice Thomas Writes Autobiography

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Breaking his 16-year public silence on his bitter confirmation hearings, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says Anita Hill was a mediocre employee who was used by political opponents to make claims she had been sexually harassed.

* * *

Powerful interest groups were out to stop him at all costs and chose "the age-old blunt instrument of accusing a black man of sexual misconduct," he writes.

* * *
In 1991, Thomas adamantly denied Hill's accusations that he made inappropriate sexual remarks, including references to pornographic movies. Thomas says he did talk about X-rated movies while at Yale Law School, adding that so did many other young people in the 1970s.

Thomas says now that he was "one of the least likely candidates imaginable" for a charge of harassment, having made clear his desire to run an agency staffed mainly by minorities and women as professionally as any other.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Jan Crawford Greenburg Interviews J. Thomas

This is exciting news:
The long-awaited memoirs of Justice Clarence Thomas will be released Monday, and, for those of you who haven’t seen posts by Mark Obbie, Tony Mauro and Howard Bashman, I’ve done a series of wide-ranging interviews with him in several different locations (and states), as well as an extensive interview with his wife, Virginia. But I can’t say anything more than that until Sunday night.

So…until then, all I can say (having studied the confidentiality agreement, its pretty harsh penalties and wanting to stay in good standing with my bosses and the New York bar) is to be on the lookout Sunday night for my substantial dot com piece, which will be posted in several parts on (You know the old saying: You can take the journalist out of print, but you can’t take print out of journalist…)

Then, starting Monday morning with Good Morning America, my pieces on Justice Thomas will begin airing on ABC News. We will have a full report on all our platforms: Good Morning America, World News Tonight and a series of lengthy and revealing segments on Nightline, which of course is the perfect place for a closer look at one the most complex, compelling, maligned and misunderstood figures in modern history.

I’ve covered the Court and Justice Thomas for 13 years now, and I can tell you this is something you will not, under any circumstances, want to miss. If you can’t catch them all, Tivo them (I’ll have to get my kids to do it, but surely you guys are more technologically adept). I also will be blogging on this throughout the weeks to come. Thomas has much to say, and there will be much to discuss.
UPDATE: See all of the ABC News stories on Justice Thomas here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Justice Thomas to Appear on 60 Minutes

UPDATE: This page has links to the full video and transcripts.

The 60 Minutes website has this short article:
Clarence Thomas: Abortion Was Real Issue
Supreme Court Justice Gives First TV Interview To Steve Kroft

Sept. 27, 2007

Steve Kroft, right, interviews Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in rural Pinpoint, Ga., where Thomas was born in 1948. (CBS)

(CBS) In his first television interview, in which he discusses his childhood, his race, his rise to Supreme Court Justice and his job on the nation's highest court, Clarence Thomas says the real issue at his controversial confirmation hearings 16 years ago was abortion.

Saying the issue was "the elephant in the room," Thomas also tells 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft that the hearings he called at the time a "high-tech lynching" harmed the country.

Kroft's interview will be broadcast on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT.

Thomas, whose Supreme Court positions on abortion issues have been conservative, says the confirmation hearings in which he was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee -- allegations he continues to deny -- were really about abortion. "That was the elephant in the room ... That was the issue. That is the issue that people are apparently so upset about," he tells Kroft. "[That is the issue] that you determine the composition of your Supreme Court and your entire federal judiciary, it seems now," says Thomas.

He says the hearings harmed the accuser, Anita Hill, himself, and ultimately the country by setting a precedent manifested in other highly charged, media-infused events such as the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. "The process harmed her. It harmed me and we see sort of the precedent of this kind of thing begin to harm even people like President Clinton," Thomas says. "Things are out of control. That's not good for the country. It's not good for the court. What are we going to look like years from now if we can't get people confirmed because everybody gets to attack them. They get to draw and quarter them."

In the interview, Thomas also expresses an opinion of his accuser for the first time in public, saying of Hill, who waited 10 years to accuse him, "She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed. That's not the person I knew," Thomas says. "She could defend herself, let's just put it that way ... She did not take slights very kindly and anyone who did anything, she responded very quickly." When Kroft rejoins, "Didn't take 10 years?" Thomas replies, "It didn't take 10 minutes."

Justice Thomas Interview Coming on Rush Limbaugh Show

UPDATE: The full transcript of the 10/01/07 interview is now here.

From the Rush Limbaugh site:
RUSH: Gregory in Detroit, I'm glad you called, sir, glad you waited. Welcome to the EIB Network.

CALLER: Thank you very much, Rush. Maybe two questions, if not three. Next Monday, October 1st, I plan to have in my never nicotine-stained fingers a copy of Justice Thomas' book -- i.e., his memoirs. Do you plan on having him on your show to interview him about the book and/or your newsletter?

RUSH: He will be on the radio Monday.

CALLER: In the first hour, second hour, or third hour?

RUSH: He's going to be in the second and third hour. It's going to be the first 90-minute interview we've ever done with anybody. I taped it after the program yesterday because the first day of the new term of the Supreme Court is on Monday, and he couldn't make it live.


RUSH: He has two segments on 60 Minutes Sunday night. By the way, the name of the book is My Grandfather's Son. He did two interview segments for 60 minutes. ABC has been following him around, too. Jan Crawford Greenburg is their court writer. She is a good reporter. I don't mean to harm her reputation saying that with her peers, but she's a good reporter. She has followed him around with the crew for I think Primetime or 20/20, whatever the show is. He's going to be all over the place later in the week next week. But I have to tell you something about this interview and I don't want to give any of it away.


RUSH: Other than to say, I start out with him when his mother gave him up. She couldn't afford him and his brother, and his grandfather took him in, and the title of the book is My Grandfather's Son. I started from there, and I didn't get to the confirmation hearings 'til what was like the end of the first hour. But during this interview -- and I don't want to give away any secrets here -- Dawn, who was here transcribing what he was saying for me in case I had trouble understanding him, which I didn't, cried twice.

CALLER: Wow! Wow.

RUSH: This is... I told him, "I'm so glad that you did this book and you're doing this," because people that know him get so frustrated the way he's caricatured and portrayed, and he's just... You're not going to be able to avoid being emotionally affected by the whole interview for the next 90 minutes on Monday.

CALLER: Rush, were you surprised by some of his comments or some new revelations that he has added to his book, and did you write a foreword or intro to the book?

RUSH: Nope. I didn't right write a foreword. I didn't do an intro. I wasn't asked to. Yeah, I learned a lot about him. He doesn't talk about himself much [in public], but I have a gotten to know him very well. The thing that will strike you about him is his humility.


RUSH: He is one of the most humble people that you will ever encounter, but he opens up in this book. I asked him. I said, "Why were you so honest about the failed -- the dissolution of your marriage and all of these problems that you've had?" And he said, "Well, they all made me who I am, and I'm not going to hold 'em back." It was amazing. You're going to love the book.

Upcoming Events re: Thomas's New Book

Several upcoming events related to Justice Clarence Thomas's new autobiography, from the Heritage Foundation:
RSVP TODAY for an event in your area:

New York—Oct. 16
Atlanta—Oct. 18
Omaha—Oct. 19
Chicago—Oct. 21
Dallas—Oct. 23
Southern California—Dec. 17 (registration opens in November)
Join The Heritage Foundation, The Federalist Society, and the National Center for Policy Analysis for an event with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as he discusses his memoir, My Grandfather’s Son.

Or watch these events live online on

Justice Thomas will be discussing his book on several media outlets:

Sunday, Sept. 30—Two segments on 60 Minutes on CBS (7:00 p.m. Eastern)
Monday, Oct. 1—Interview with Rush Limbaugh (noon Eastern) and appearances on ABC's Nightline (11:30 p.m. Eastern) and Good Morning America (7:00 a.m. Eastern)
Thursday, Oct. 4—Interview with Laura Ingraham (check local listings for times)

And look for a feature on My Grandfather’s Son in the forthcoming National Review and on National Review Online.

"Doubting Thomas"

An article by Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School:
The other day I blogged about some factual errors in Jeffrey Toobin's "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court" that worried me. I was also troubled by a couple of other things. They are judgment calls, and perhaps you will agree with the author's judgment more than mine, but I thought I'd mention them.

In particular, let me start with the book's treatment of Justice Clarence Thomas, which at times strikes me as not entirely fair. Let me offer a few examples:
* * *

Clarence Thomas's Book Party

An article in The Hill:
Most Washington parties can be crashed with simple name-dropping or the flash of a powerful business card. Next week’s book party for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, however, is off-limits to intruders.

“If you don’t have an invite, don’t come,” said Armstrong Williams, who will host the party at his Northeast D.C. home. “And don’t bring guests who aren’t on the list.”

In what surely will come as a shock to some who saddle up to the bar next Wednesday, the party is alcohol-free. Not so shocking for Williams and Thomas — neither drinks.

Dissecting a D.C. party such as this one is a complicated affair. Plans must be made. Buzz must be created. Above all, an air of exclusivity must be close at hand.

Williams’s guest list includes jaw-dropping names, even by Washington standards. Thomas’s colleagues on the high court will be there, mingling with Hollywood celebrities, media superstars and powerful members of Congress.

To top it all off, there is strong speculation that Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, will attend.

Like other hosts for exclusive parties in the nation’s capital, Williams — a former aide to Thomas — has not released his guest list.
But make no mistake, this party is strictly A-list. Actor Will Smith, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, ABC newswoman Barbara Walters, CBS Sports’s James Brown, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, ex-NBA star Charles Barkley and Bob Jones of Bob Jones University are expected to celebrate Thomas’s tome, entitled My Grandfather’s Son. Washington Redskins and Wizards will also be in the house.

Steve Croft of “60 Minutes,” whose recent interview of Thomas is expected to air this Sunday, will be at the party next week.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), whose aggressive questioning of Anita Hill during Thomas’s contentious confirmation hearings in 1991 attracted praise from the right and condemnation from the left, will also be in attendance, as have Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other lawmakers.

Yet this book party is not a conservatives-only gathering. Civil rights activist and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton and NAACP President Julian Bond are expected to attend.

“This is an American event,” Williams said. “It’s not left or right.”

He added, “There’s a cross-section of media types who were invited, including some who unfairly criticized Justice Thomas. But that’s behind us. You can’t hold a grudge.”

Williams describes Thomas as his mentor. Their friendship has grown stronger over the years — they have been spotted dining at the Capital Grille, and Williams regularly drops by the high court to talk with his old boss.

Years ago, Williams said, Thomas told him that he was considering writing his memoirs. Having held functions for Thomas before, Williams said it was a given he would host the book party.

They have compared notes on what Williams describes as the “storms” in their lives. For Thomas, it was the contentious confirmation process. For Williams, it was his government contract promoting President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which triggered a Justice Department investigation.

“That is a bond for us,” Williams said in an interview this week. “But what matters is we’re still standing and we have something to celebrate.”

Thomas, Williams says, is in a good place: “I’ve never seen him so upbeat.”

Since word got out on the party, Williams said, his office has fielded close to a thousand calls. Most have been turned away. Only about 250 VIPers will get in, though Williams noted that there are regular people on the list who are close to Thomas — Americans who won’t show up in People magazine.

* * *

"The New Intolerance"

This is a speech given by Clarence Thomas in May 1993 at Mercer University. The audio is here. And here is the full text:
Thank you all so much. Thank you, Judge Bell for your kind words, and I also thank you for all the kind things you've done for me in my life, especially over the last three or four years. I -- This is a real pleasure to be here. I didn't thing so many people would be interested in what I had to say. There isn't that great a demand for my opinions.

As you all can see, I kinda had to hobble up here. I had decided to play basketball with my law clerks and snapped my Achilles tendon. If that wasn't bad enough, I also tore it. But I was looking around for some precedent as to what happens to people after they've injured their Achilles tendon, and in looking I found that some very good things happen. Dominique Wilkins is the second leading scorer in the NBA. And he also makes several million dollars a year, so I may be changing jobs after this heals.

It's wonderful to be in Macon, George. I grew up on the music of James Brown. I think he was born here and I'm sure he always hails from Augusta. And, of course, there's Little Richard who did a little bit of everything. He's quite an entertainer. I had a young mother. That's why I listened to all these things. I was a little kid. And, of course, when I went off to school Otis Redding was hot -- "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay." So, I am very pleased to be in the hometown of -- Lena Horne, of course, is from here and there are all sorts of other wonderful people. I just happen to remember those, and people I think so well of.

It is good to be back in Georgia. It's good to be back in my home state. I look forward to this day -- have looked forward for a long time. I thank, again, Judge Bell and my dear friend Larry Thompson for their role in my presence here today. Larry and I met -- as Judge Bell alluded to -- we met some 19 years ago in a Bar Review course, while preparing for the Missouri Bar. That was in the summer of 1974. And we went on to work together in the Law Department of Monsanto Company in St. Louis. I'd also like to thank Dean Shelton for inviting me and all the patience he had in working out with his wonderful staff the details here today -- and the alumni association.

Since going on the Court, I have not had the opportunity to give many speeches, in part because during the Court term there never seems to be enough time. However, during my years in the Executive Branch, I spoke quite a bit. In fact, during my preparations for my last confirmation, one friend, after learning that I had given more than 100 copies of my printed speeches to the Senate Judiciary Committee for their review, asked why I had given so many speeches. I quickly assured him that the reason I didn't give more speeches during my tenure was that I ran out of time and more importantly ran out of people willing to listen.

Seriously, after my brief tenure as a federal judge -- or seriously, my brief tenure as a federal judge, with the exception of a brief interruption for my confirmation as Associate Justice -- has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Throughout my year and a half on the Court, I have found the working relationship with my fellow Justices and their clerks to be courteous and kind. For my first day on the bench I found that, regardless of my junior status, I was treated with the same respect as Justices who had been there for 20 and 30 years -- well, maybe with the possible exception of the Chief Justice, to whom everyone is especially nice. And that's because he handles all the Opinion assignments.

But kidding aside, the cases we decide are usually very difficult and, of course, there are times when the disagreement among the Justices is intense. But out of respect for ourselves, and for the positions we hold, we take care to remain civil and respectful to each other. That is not to say that in some Opinions we aren't tough on the others' legal views and interpretations. This does not carry, however, into the Court dining room or into the hallways in the form of disrespect or incivility. So I've settled into Court life, and despite what you may have heard, I am very happy with the challenges of the work and the friendship of my colleagues.

Mercer University and Mercer Law School played important roles in my dreams to educate myself and ultimately to become a lawyer. I can still remember going to the Savannah Public Library to read catalogues about schools, schools that I might have an opportunity to attend. For a variety of reasons, I kept coming back to Mercer. This institution helped me to keep a dream alive, and to keep a dream alive in a young black kid who spent hours wondering about the possibilities that lay ahead. But never in my wildest dream would I have thought that I would be an invited speaker here, and, as a Supreme Court Justice no less.

Yet, there's another reason why this day is a special one, beyond of course your wonderful hospitality and the importance of this Law Day Celebration. This occasion gives me the chance to say, "Thank you." I will never be able to express how much the support of my fellow Georgians meant to my family and me during those bleak days in the summer and fall of 1991.

Since I have been somewhat of a Washington area nomad before my four previous nominations, I have been identified as Clarence Thomas of Missouri, of Maryland, or of Virginia; but for my Supreme Court nomination, I asked President Bush to nominate me as Clarence Thomas of Georgia. When he mentioned my Georgia roots as he announced my nomination in Kennebunkport, I felt immensely proud. To me, it symbolized my coming home. And as that inglorious summer wore on, home came to me in the form of letters, cards, calls, prayers, flowers. And today, as I stand here, I know that it was all worth it.

It seems so long ago that I left for the first time. That was in the fall of 1967. I had just graduated from high school seminary and was on way to college seminary in Missouri. I took the "Nancy Hank"¹ -- some of you may remember the "Nancy Hank" -- from Savannah to Atlanta; then flew from Atlanta to Kansas City, Missouri, my first airplane flight; then on to Conception Junction, Missouri. (Sure many of you've been there.) Those were turbulent times in 1967, in Georgia, across the country, and, of course, across the South. Intolerance and bigotry still defined the relationship between the races.

Of course, we all have our stories to tell about how we were treated or mistreated in those difficult days. And from time to time I've speculated that racial attitudes had still not changed sufficiently for me to return to my home state to practice law after law school. I would certainly have liked to come back, if for no other reason, after spending six years in law school -- or in six years in college and law school in the Northeast, I was dying for some decent southern cooking on a regular basis. Seriously, I allude to this possibility of discrimination, not as an indictment of anyone or to place blame, but only to note that racial prejudice permeated all of our lives in one way or another. Only to that extent was it nondiscriminatory.

Growing up in the South, we were never far removed from prevailing prejudices. We lived with them on a daily basis: as children, when we couldn't swim in most public pools; as adults, when we were looking for work or trying to rent an apartment. The prejudice and racial hatred that drove our national consciousness has complex and, to a certain degree, undiscoverable roots. But one of its consequences was the lack of civility toward members of my race.

I focus on this undignified, uncivil treatment so many of us suffered because of this hardship -- because in this hardship, there is wisdom. For if we have not learned of the tragedy and damage caused by mistreating others, then so much of that terrible struggle was in vain. And although, we would be kidding ourselves if we didn't admit that racial stereotypes still linger in 1993, I believe we all have benefited from the struggles of those years.

Today, I'm here to share my thoughts about a principle that seems to be falling out of fashion these days: civility. For if we have learned anything from the hardship, it is that no good can ever come of treating others badly, whether on account of their race, their religion, or gender.

As the customs, practices, and laws governing the relations between the race[s] changed, we feared the backlash of incivility, if not outright lawlessness that would follow. We saw how so many resisted change for the good. This was so in no small part because there's comfort in the extant stereotypes and prejudices. It is far easier to hold fast to generalizations, rather than to take the time and make the effort to judge people on an individual basis.

Thus, for years following the civil rights gains of the 60's, we still found ourselves wondering if the country truly was ready to reject what the Supreme Court had told us in the Dred Scott decision -- that the negro had no rights that needed to be respected.

But even as the harsh realities of inter-racial relations settled over us, for many, including myself, the intra-racial fear -- sphere in which we lived stood in stark contrast. Racial stereotypes of blacks and whites were dismissed out of hands as our families, teachers, and neighbors told us to treat others not as we are treated by them, but rather as we wish ourselves to be treated by them.

As the outside world so often operated beyond rules of civility and dignity, as it held fast to prejudice, we did our best to retain our sense of fairness in order that unfairness in practice did not undermine fairness in principle. In our house, no one was allowed to use racial slurs to describe whites, even while it was uncommon for blacks -- or was not uncommon for blacks to be degraded by racial epithets. Everyone was to be treated with respect regardless of how disrespectfully we were treated.

The notion of civility does not submit easily to definition. To pardon a phrase, it's sort of a "we know it when we see it" phenomenon. Most of us know when we are treated rudely, disrespectfully, or improperly. We also know in our hearts when we treat others uncivilly. Perhaps with all the problems in the world today, this might not seem very important. In this country, crime and poverty still plague us. In Bosnia, we see the attempted extermination of an entire people. Yet, notions of fair play, civility, and respect for the inherent worth of another person's ideas, are all values that have been vital to the continued success of this country, and essential tools which our leaders must bring to any domestic or international crisis.

If we seem to have gotten off course, we might do well to start at ground zero -- right at the beginning. On an individual basis, rules of personal conduct allow us to confront difficulties constructively, and they provide guardrails down what is an often dangerous and precarious road of life. These guardrails, of course, kept us well within the bounds of the criminal laws. My grandfather made it very clear that a man did not keep his good name merely by not breaking the criminal law. Our family laws required much more of us and did not permit us to wander into that gray zone of impropriety not governed by the criminal law. So, only -- not only were we not to do bad things or engage in mischief, we were not to associate with those who did, because as my grandparents would say, "They were up to no good." Somehow, with the benefit of little formal education, my grandparents recognized the inexorable downward spiral of conduct outside the guardrails: If you lie, you will cheat; if you cheat, you will steal; if you steal, you will kill.

Along these lines, I still remember the -- this now amusing memory -- or I have this now amusing memory of crossing East Henry Street at the corner of East Broad. Since Henry Street was one-way and particularly busy, we had been told time and time again not to cross against the light. But as grammar school kids, we did anyway. Well, on one of those occasions a neighbor, Miss Gertrude, passed by on a bus. Her siren-like voice pierced the air, rising above the din of traffic, and she yelled, "I'm gonna tell Teenie." Teenie [sp?] is my grandmother. This meant major trouble. True to her word, as usual, she told. Before he delivered the punishment, our grandfather gave us the usual refrain, "This hurts me worse than it hurts you." Even now, that is hard for me to believe.

Yes, we were, as they said, to be "mannerable" -- period. We did not dare walk the street -- or walk down the street without saying "Good morning" to Miss Gladys, Miss Moriah, Miss Beck, and especially Miss Gertrude -- the latter for obvious reasons. We would never think of addressing an adult only by his or her first name, or as the adults would say, without a "handle" on that name. We would never refuse to make a trip to the store for an adult who asked. We knew that we were not to litter or damage the property of another, regardless of how much the property was worth.

And I remember the "do's" maybe even better than I remember the "don't's" -- church on Sunday; tend to property on Saturday; wash the car; cut the grass; polish your shoes. And all of us, especially my brother and I, were expected to work. My grandfather imposed a rule that seemed pretty harsh: If you don't work, you don't eat. And he meant it. Needless to say, I liked eating, so I endured working. My grandfather also had a corollary principle or rule that revealed his soft, kind side: When you produce more than you need, you give to those who could not do for themselves -- but not to those who could. To them, you give a chance to work. It wasn't until I got older that I realized why my chores never seemed to end, because my grandfather provided me with a steady stream of work for work's sake, or better put, work to consume idleness, which he called, "The devil's workshop."

And let me tell you, even if we felt as kids that the unending work was unfair, there were no negotiations about the work or the rules. By decree my -- By -- By decree of my grandfather, my teachers and my grandmother were always right. And by decree, though not always right, he was never wrong. I still don't know what the difference is between these two rules. Regardless of how we were treated by others, we were expected to rise above our circumstances rather than becoming consumed by them or by the natural reactions that stirred within us all.

The families poorest in means were often the richest in manners. That was comforting. Resentment and other destructive passions were not free to breed in such an atmosphere. There were guardrails. While as a kid I sometimes saw this regimen as nothing more than a plot to keep me away from my training to be a pro football player, or a basketball star, as an adult I see how this nurturing of good manners and good work habits gave me the independence, discipline, and self-respect that I needed for college and my life as an adult.

Certainly, much has changed since those days. Most significantly, no longer is there government sponsored segregation. While discrimination, no doubt, still hovers about, its face does not resemble that of my youth. The mere fact that I'm here today, a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, is some indication of just how far we've come and just how much things have changed.

But sadly, although much has changed, much has not. Many of the old problems have resurfaced elsewhere in our society under rubrics -- under different rubrics and with different justifications. When I left Georgia over 25 years ago, the familiar sources of unkind treatment and incivility were just bigots. Today, ironically, a new brand of stereotypes and ad hominem assaults are surfacing across the nation's college campuses, in the national media, in Hollywood, and among the involuntarily ordained cultural elite. And who are the targets? Those who dare to question current social and cultural gimmicks; those who insist that we embrace the values that have worked and reject those that have failed us; those who dare to disagree with the latest ideological fad.

Signs of this began creeping up during my college years. Back then, wearing an Afro hairstyle was in vogue. After -- Often I heard it said you weren't really black if you didn't wear an Afro. Though I occasionally wore my hair in this style, I certainly didn't define myself through my barber. This conformist mindset struck me as particularly incredible, since we had barely freed ourselves from being judged by others on the basis of our skin. My reaction to this was to leave my hair uncombed for most of my college career. I'm still not sure if anyone knew the difference.

Perhaps this seems funny now, but it did portend greater and more serious stereotypical dictates. Later in life I would be told that I did not "think black," by white critics no less. During the 1980's I watched with shock and dismay how friends of mine were treated for merely disagreeing with what my friend Tom Sowell referred to as "The New Orthodoxy." As a black person, straying from the tenets of this orthodoxy meant that you were a traitor to your race. You were not a "real black" and you would be forced to pay for your ideological trespass, often through systematic character assassination -- the modern day version of the old public floggings. Just a few of the victims were Clarence Pendleton, Walter Williams, or Jay Parker, all friends of mine -- the late Clarence Pendleton.

Undoubtedly, there are untold numbers of others who have been made to pay the same high price for their ideas. Instead of seeing signs on public doors saying, "No Coloreds Allowed," the signs I saw were "No Nonconforming Ideas Allowed!" This tack of damning the dissenter by skewering his character, rather than by substantively criticizing his views, occurs while unyielding praise is heaped on those who write, speak, and think the language of the New Orthodoxy. Their assertions go unchallenged, untested, and then are passed on to our children as truisms. The ultimate effect is that many cower in fear of speaking out publicly on certain issues or policies due to the unrelenting, personal attacks that are likely to follow.

This is what I refer to as "The New Intolerance." It gives me a feeling of deja vu, or as Yogi Berra would add, "deja vu all over again." In many ways, it is just the same old thing we've seen before, just as invidious and perhaps more pervasive than the incivility black Americans suffered throughout much of this century. Its perniciousness lies in its masquerade. Cleverly the purveyors of the New Intolerance claim legitimacy in the name of fostering tolerance, sensitivity, or a sense of community. Yet, in my experience these popular buzz words are merely trotted out as justifications in an attempt to intimidate and silence those who dare to question popular political, social, or economic fads.

To defend this turf from criticisms, competing ideas and points of views are ignored and the jugular of the dissenter vengefully slashed at. Does a man instantaneously become insensitive or a dupe or an Uncle Tom because he happens to disagree with the policy of Affirmative Action? Is it any more justified to hurl invectives at him for what he believes than to call him names for the color of his skin? In both instances, a man's reputation is disparaged and his name sullied. In neither instance is he treated as an individual. Is it really any more laudable to make a man afraid to express his views than it is to make him ashamed for the color of his skin? Does it make sense to criticize someone who says, "Blacks look alike," then praise someone who says that "All blacks should think alike?"

One of the things I looked forward to when I first went to Washington was the opportunity to debate and discuss difficult issues with those who had competing ideas. The closest I came to this environment were my dealings with my personal staff during my days as chairman of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. They challenged me. We debated. We disagreed. We saw issues in ways we hadn't seen them before. The unfettered exchanges were liberating.

When I arrived in Washington, I just assumed that although the legitimacy of a person['s] ideas were fair game, his character was not. So you can imagine how surprised and disappointed I was to find that the reverse was true. Many issues were off limits, but ad hominem attacks were not. Indeed, they were in vogue. Those who had the temerity to broach these subjects and -- heaven forbid -- actually express a view contrary to The New Orthodoxy were summarily dismissed as "sellouts" or "insensitive."

This was especially true for those of us who happened to be black. As soon as I began working in the Reagan Administration, I was quickly and cavalierly described as an "ultraconservative." Why? Because I dared to follow the final counsel of my -- that my grandfather gave some 10 years ago. I stood up for what I believed in and for what he taught me. Later I would be called worse things. Few flinched at the hypocrisy of it all. And for those who had the misfortune of not being black, well they were racist, bigots, fascists, or Neanderthals. I am still waiting to here the cries of insensitivity about the casual use of these epithets. The silence is deafening.

It is not surprising that this New Intolerance has a devastating, chilling effect. I cannot tell you how many people have approached me in airports, restaurants, or on the streets -- only to whisper how much they agreed with me, and about what I think, and about the need to get back to basics in this country. While it's heartening to know that there's an undercurrent of common sense running through our country today, it is saddening to know that so many are fearful of challenging the advocates of this New Intolerance.

Of course, the reluctance is understandable. Being their victim is no fun. It is no more enjoyable than it was 25 or 30 years ago -- when we feared for our safety if caught walking in the wrong neighborhood after dark. It is imperative that we recognize that where blacks were once intimidated from crossing racial boundaries, we all now fear crossing ideological boundaries, and that such intolerance and incivility that fuel both types of intimidation are reprehensible.

Just as so many worked tirelessly to end the undignified, uncivil treatment of blacks in this country, it is incumbent upon all of you to do your part in order that The New Intolerance does not succeed in stifling the free exchange of ideas. Women have the right not to agree with the feminist agenda, and not to be personally attacked for it. Blacks have the right to criticize welfare policies, and not to be lashed by the cultural elite for doing so. If you succumb to self-censorship, then the gains that we have made will be hollow. If we lose this battle, we risk finding ourselves once again judged not for our individual ideas or conduct, but only for the color of our skin or some other immutable characteristic.

Demand to be treated by your classmates and colleagues with respect and dignity, regardless of how strong the disagreement among you. Settle for nothing less than fair, civil discussions, where labels and stereotypes of any sort are rejected as harmful and counterproductive. Remind those who claim that your viewpoint is divisive or insensitive that [audio missing approx. 2 seconds] ² by nature divisive and that such divisiveness is to be harnessed by civility, not censorship. And tell them that what should really should be off limits are personal attacks on those who happen to disagree.

So this is a time for regrouping and rejuvenation. As I look out in the audience today, I see hope. When I was a brash and often angry young man -- and I was angry -- I would confide in my grandmother about my frustration and my dejection. She passed away 10 years ago today, but I can still see her looking at me with those strong, kind, sensitive eyes. She would give me her usual sage, warm advice: "Son, do your best. Be good. Be honest. And say your prayers." I would respond, "Yes, ma'am."

Perhaps we all should say, "Yes, ma'am" to her wise counsel and get on with the business of acting like we deserve to live in a free society.

Thank you all.


¹The Nancy Hank(s) was a rail (train) service between Savannah and Atlanta.

²Best estimate for content of missing audio is: "....viewpoints are by..."

Research Note: Audio provided by Joseph Slife, Emmanuel College Communication Dept. (Franklin Springs, Ga.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Thomas's Impact on Legal Debates Exceeds High-Court Influence"

That's the title for this article from Bloomberg. There's an interesting comment from liberal law scholar Mark Tushnet. Excerpts:
Clarence Thomas may be the best known, most controversial of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices. Whether his influence matches his prominence is another matter.
* * *
His approach has earned him a circle of admirers and words of respect from some scholars who reject his conclusions. At the same time, his reluctance to compromise even when he's part of a majority means he often writes a separate opinion, limiting his power to speak for the court and shape the law.

``He's making an impact perhaps within the academy and perhaps even within society, but I'm not sure he's making much of an impact on the court itself,'' said David Stras, a former Thomas law clerk who now teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. ``And the reason why is that he's often writing for himself.''

* * *

Even more so than fellow court conservative Antonin Scalia, Thomas stands out as the justice most willing to rethink -- and discard -- long-held legal assumptions.

In 1992, Thomas questioned whether the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment applied to prisoner abuse. In 2004, he wrote that the Constitution's prohibition on government establishment of religion restricts only federal officials, not the states.

Earlier this year, he advocated overturning a 1968 decision that conferred free-speech rights on public-school students. Thomas pointed to what he said was the original understanding of the First Amendment and the role of the earliest American schools as places where ``teachers taught and students listened.''

Each of those positions stems from Thomas's view, shared with Scalia, that the ``original understanding'' of the Constitution should guide today's application of it.

* * *

Some legal scholars and advocates who disagree with Thomas, including Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet, give him credit for original and provocative thought. Tushnet wrote in a 2005 book on the court that Thomas was more likely than Scalia to leave an enduring imprint on constitutional scholarship.

``I would not object to being associated with the words, `He's gotten a bum rap,''' Tushnet said in an interview.

Thomas's backers say he writes with an eye toward the future. ``Some of the things that he's talking about need to percolate in the legal culture for a while,'' said Chris Landau, a Washington lawyer who clerked for Thomas during his first year on the court. ``It's very possible that those could be majority opinions in the future.''

* * *

Inside the court, Thomas is a popular figure. During arguments, he shares private jokes with Justice Stephen Breyer, often a foe in constitutional cases. Court clerks, police officers and interns describe him as the friendliest justice, sometimes spending hours talking to a new acquaintance.

Thomas spends much of his summer on the road in a recreational vehicle. Earlier this month, he drove his RV to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for a football game between Wake Forest University and his beloved Cornhuskers of Nebraska, his wife's home state. Thomas had one special request: to meet professional basketball star Chris Paul, who played at Wake Forest.

Among court-watchers, Thomas remains a subject of fascination, with biographies almost annual events. His own book, ``My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir,'' covers his life through his confirmation hearings and may rekindle the passions that surrounded his nomination.

Longtime friend Larry Thompson, general counsel of PepsiCo Inc., said Thomas receives ``undue focus'' in part because some in the media see a black conservative as an ``oddity.''

``I'm just surprised and saddened by the attention he gets,'' Thompson said. ``He's an independent thinker. He's a good lawyer. He bases his decisions in large part on scholarship.''

Jan Crawford Greenburg on Thomas's Influence

Jan Crawford Greenburg, the most excellent of all Supreme Court reporters, had an article earlier this year explaining that Thomas's influence on the Supreme Court is often underestimated:
Clarence Thomas has borne some of the most vitriolic personal attacks in Supreme Court history. But the persistent stereotypes about his views on the law and subordinate role on the court are equally offensive--and demonstrably false. An extensive documentary record shows that Justice Thomas has been a significant force in shaping the direction and decisions of the court for the past 15 years.

That's not the standard storyline. Immediately upon his arrival at the court, Justice Thomas was savaged by court-watchers as Antonin Scalia's dutiful apprentice, blindly following his mentor's lead. It's a grossly inaccurate portrayal, imbued with politically incorrect innuendo, as documents and notes from Justice Thomas's very first days on the court conclusively show. Far from being a Scalia lackey, the rookie jurist made clear to the other justices that he was willing to be the solo dissenter, sending a strong signal that he would not moderate his opinions for the sake of comity. By his second week on the bench, he was staking out bold positions in the private conferences where justices vote on cases. If either justice changed his mind to side with the other that year, it was Justice Scalia joining Justice Thomas, not the other way around.

* * *

Why Doesn't Thomas Speak Often at Oral Arguments?

This is a perennial line of attack for liberals, who use Thomas's frequent silence at oral arguments to question his involvement in the Supreme Court's business, or even his intelligence. These attacks smack of outright racism, of course. Look at all the previous Justices who didn't ask questions either, as explained in a 2002 panel presentation by veteran Supreme Court advocate Carter Phillips:
Dellinger: Carter, I think you've argued starting further back than any of the rest of us. Is the Court much more active now than prior Courts? This is a change, isn't it?

Phillips: It's a vast sea change and it started, obviously, when Justice Scalia replaced [Warren] Burger. When I argued in 1981, you could pretty much bet you weren't going to get any questions from Justice [William] Brennan [Jr.], and you might get one question from Justice [Thurgood] Marshall. Justice Blackmun would ask a question that you weren't always sure you were quite ready for because you could never quite understand necessarily what the purpose of the question was, although I think he usually had one. And my old boss, Chief Justice Burger, very rarely asked one. I don't think he ever asked me a question at all in the years that I argued there.
No one ever accused Brennan, Marshall, or Burger of a lack of intelligence simply because they didn't ask many questions at oral argument.

Instead, in a Q&A session that was televised in 2000, Thomas told some high school students the real reasons why he does not often speak up at oral arguments:
There's no reason to add to the volume. I also believe strongly, unless I want an answer, I don't ask things. I don't ask for entertainment, I don't ask to give people a hard time.

I have some very active colleagues who like to ask questions. Usually, if you wait long enough, someone will ask your question.

The other thing, I was on that other side of the podium before, in my earlier life, and it's hard to stand up by yourself and to have judges who are going to rule on your case ask you tough questions. I don't want to give them a hard time.

But I'm going to give you a more personal reason, and I think this is probably the first time I ever even told anybody about it. How old are you? You're 16. When I was 16, I was sitting as the only black kid in my class, and I had grown up speaking a kind of a dialect. It's called Geechee. Some people call it Gullah now, and people praise it now. But they used to make fun of us back then. It's not standard English. When I transferred to an all-white school at your age, I was self-conscious, like we all are. It's like if we get pimples at 16, or we grow six inches and we're taller than everybody else, or our feet grow or something; we get self-conscious. And the problem was that I would correct myself midsentence. I was trying to speak standard English. I was thinking in standard English but speaking another language. So I learned that — I just started developing the habit of listening. And it just got to be — I didn't ask questions in college or law school. And I found that I could learn better just listening. And if I have a question I could ask it later.

For all those reasons, and a few others, I just think that it's more in my nature to listen rather than to ask a bunch of questions. And they get asked anyway. The only reason I could see for asking the questions is to let people know I've got something to ask. That's not a legitimate reason in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Justice Thomas offered similar explanations in a 2000 meeting with law students:
Justice Thomas said that the press has criticized Justice Antonin Scalia for asking questions during oral arguments before the Court. Some journalists have called Justice Scalia argumentative. Some of those same journalists have criticized Justice Thomas for not asking questions during oral arguments. He said, "I think if we invite a person in, we should at least listen to what he has to say." In words that sounded close to what I'd once heard from a Catholic priest, he said that you should really listen if you are listening to a person. If you are thinking of your next question as the person is speaking, some of your attention is not on listening to the person.

He further explained that he had not asked questions in high school, in college, or in law school. "When I was asked a question, I answered it, but I did not ask questions." He explained that he had grown up in a rural area in the South where there remained a major influence of an African language. As he grew up, many in that area spoke a mixture of English and this old language. As a consequence, while he learned to speak standard English-only, he would edit his speech and his words in his brain before speaking. This encouraged him to do more listening than speaking.
More recently, Jan Crawford Greenburg interviewed Thomas, and asked why he doesn't speak more often at oral argument. Among other things, he said:
THOMAS: I think when people are invited in to make their case, we should listen. It's not a debate society. This is not a seminar.

And when I first came on the Court, there were far fewer questions, and there were so many more opportunities to have a conversation with a lawyer, not the sort of family feud type environment that we have now.

I think that that's not as productive as actually having a conversation, and I do think it's important that we listen to people. You know, I think it's wonderful, what a great country. You can have a case, you can come all the way to the Supreme Court, and you can say your piece.

There are times I've gone across the country, and I'll meet a small town lawyer who says, "You know, I was up at your Court and they never let me say what I wanted to say."

That isn't what I want to hear. I prefer to hear, "I made it all the way to Court and I got to tell you what I really thought."

Now, it may not change my mind, it may not change my colleagues' minds, but you have the satisfaction of having come and said your piece, and I think we should listen.

(Is that why you generally save your questions, when you ask them, until the end?)

THOMAS: Well, usually, there's such a seamless series of questions that you can't get in unless you elbow your way in, and I don't think that's necessary. I don't think we need all those questions, and I think it's unseemly to have to elbow my way in, interrupt counsel or interrupt my colleagues to get a question in.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Justice Thomas Speaks at Marshall University

Several news stories about this speech:

1. In W.Va. visit, Clarence Thomas blasts critics of court
HUNTINGTON -- Divisive issues like abortion will come to seem almost quaint compared to some of the complex matters that will soon confront the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas told an audience at Marshall University.
Thomas, appointed by President Bush in 1991, said the rapid pace of computer and information technology change will soon require society and the courts to confront new dimensions of issues ranging from intellectual property to crime.

Holding up his thin, compact personal digital assistant, Thomas discussed the rapid changes since he was appointed 16 years ago.

"When I went on the court, a cell phone looked like a loaf of bread,'' Thomas told the crowd, which included students, local dignitaries, and members of the AARP who invited him to Huntington.

The speed with which computers are changing society will soon make other issues -- like immigration -- seem less significant in comparison, Thomas said.

"Issues like abortion will be rendered almost simple compared to the issues we will face,'' he said.

Thomas' visit is the first ever paid to the Marshall campus by a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Thomas came at the invitation of Dolly Rozzi, head of the local AARP chapter, who worked for him when he was chairman of the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in the 1980s.

The judge, a firmly conservative member of the court, used the occasion to blast critics of the Supreme Court as being poorly informed and superficial in their criticism.

"All you need to be an expert on the Supreme Court is a couple of drinks and a mouth,'' Thomas said to laughter.

"Those who are outside the building have no idea what's really happening,'' he said. "I don't think you can be in the position of criticizing if you don't know anything about it.''

* * *
"One of the surprises of the court is how civil it is,'' he said, noting that Scalia and liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are close friends who share a love of opera. The justices engage in a number of bonding rituals, Thomas said, like always making it a point to eat lunch together during the session.

"The real hard part of our work is behind closed doors,'' he said. "We don't have a PR machine. We don't have town hall meetings. We're referees and none of us thinks a referee can make up rules as they go along.''

Rozzi said she's an example of that spirit of cooperation.

She described herself as a "dyed-in-the-wool Democrat'' but said she and the conservative jurist always worked well together.

"I really enjoyed working for this man,'' she said. "We got along from the day we met.''
2. A local blogger:
went to see Justice Clarence Thomas at Marshall University last night – great guy and a great event. After last night and Saturday, I’ve got say that the school seems to have a gift for pulling off first-class events.

Thomas was very approachable – at the pre-event we talked about the merit of a Hampden-Sydney education (considerable) and the troubles presented to the motor coach enthusiast (he is one) of having the I-70 tunnel through Wheeling closed.
3. Thomas talks courts, sports at Marshall, by Chris Dickerson -Cabell Bureau:

HUNTINGTON -- Despite being a diehard Nebraska Cornhusker fan, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas couldn't help himself.

Thomas took part in an enthusiastic "We Are … Marshall!" cheer led by Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp during his appearance Monday on the campus.

When in Huntington …

Thomas spoke at the monthly meeting of the Huntington branch of AARP during a special meeting at MU's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. Thomas, 59, was the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice to visit Marshall, which is named for legendary Justice John Marshall.

The auditorium wasn't filled to capacity, but many prominent people attended, such as state Supreme Court justices Brent Benjamin and Spike Maynard, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver, Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson, Putnam Circuit Judge Ed Eagloski and prominent Huntington attorney Mike Ferrell.

Thomas used sports analogies several times during his talk.

"We're like referees," the Georgia native said of judges. "We're neutral. And we use the rules given to us. You don't want referees making up rules as they go along.

"You want consistency and impartiality from referees, including the ones who wear black robes. After all, it's your Constutition."

Thomas also talked about how the nine Supreme Court justices don't always agree on legal issues, but a common civility bonds them together.

"We're the antithesis of what you normally see from Washington, D.C.," he said. "It's not about our differences. It's about what we have in common.

"We always begin our work with a handshake. We always have lunch together. It's hard to break bread together and hate each other.

"Sure, there is disagreement and exasperation, but we're friends."

He described the Supreme Court as a calm and civil place in the middle of a storm, much like a reading room of a library.

"A temper tantrum does not supersede the Constitution," Thomas said. "We have an obligation to be as responsible as we can when interpreting laws. … I tell my law clerks all the time, the structure is what was meant to run the country. Not the amendments.

"It's not about us. It's about the Constitution. I took an oath to God to do this job impartially"

In one of the evening's lighter moments, the conservative judge took a jab at critics of the court.

"All you need to be an expert on the Supreme Court is a couple of drinks and a mouth,'' Thomas said. After the laughter stopped, he went on to say court critics usually aren't informed.

"Those who are outside the building have no idea what's really happening,'' he said. "I don't think you can be in the position of criticizing if you don't know anything about it. You can't criticize if you aren't informed."

Still, Thomas seemed to be unfazed by criticism.

"People have different perspectives of the court, and it's good to hear what other people think of the work we do."

Thomas also took time to praise John Marshall, who was the longest serving Chief Justice in U.S. History and played a major role in shaping the U.S. legal system.

"We wouldn't have the judicial system today without Justice Marshall," Thomas said. "He defined the role of the judicial branch. Marbury v. Madison is the beginning of our system of judicial review.

"It's been almost 16 years ago, but I still remember sitting in the John Marshall chair for the first time."

The two state Supreme Court justices in attendance praised Thomas' appearance.

"Justice Thomas is a great jurist," Benjamin said. "It's an honor to have an opportunity to talk to him. He's intelligent, humble, respectful and personable."

"The talk was fascinating," Maynard said. "And it's a real coup for Huntington, Marshall and the AARP to get Justice Thomas here."

Other highlights of Thomas' speech:

* He recalled listening to his grandfather and his friends arguing over issues of the day, topics ranging from politics to weather to sports.

"The disagreements didn't separate them," he said. "It kept them interesting. Bonds like that have been weakened in today's society."

* When asked to talk about the most difficult vote he has cast in his 16 years on the Supreme Court, Thomas thought for a moment.

"Let me just evade that question," he said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.

* Thomas said he is a frequent visitor to the Mountain State.

"I come through West Virginia quite a bit, usually in my mobile home," he said. "I just don't broadcast it that I'm here.

"But I will come back and, hopefully, have a chance to meet with students here."

* Thomas was invited to Huntington by Dolly Rozzi, head of the Huntington AARP chapter. She worked for Thomas when he was chairman of the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in the 1980s.

Despite being a staunch liberal Democrat to Thomas' conservative views, Rozzi said she always got along well with her former boss.

"I really enjoyed working for this man,'' she said.
4. Thomas shares views of Supreme Court
By: Jennifer L. Chapman
Posted: 9/11/07
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said he finds it interesting that most people who consider themselves experts on constitutional law have not even read the Constitution.

"All you need to be an expert on the Supreme Court are a couple of drinks and a mouth," Thomas said to the not-filled-to-capacity audience Monday evening at an AARP meeting in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.

In a more serious tone, the gray-headed Thomas, who is the first Supreme Court justice to visit Marshall, added that one cannot be in a position of criticizing if they are not educated about the issue, especially about the proceedings of the Supreme Court.

"Those outside of the building have no idea what happens inside the building," Thomas said. "What I continue to be surprised by is the difference of what actually happens and what is said that happens."

Thomas said support and cooperation are examples of what does happen inside the courtroom, and refusing to get caught up in self-interest is Thomas' way of staying grounded in such an esteemed position. Leaving politics and personal relationships out of the equation fall right behind.

"We always begin our work with a handshake, and we always have lunch together," Thomas said about the relationship between the justices. "It's hard to break bread together and hate each other."

He referred to the Supreme Court and its members as the antithesis of what can be seen in Washington, D.C., and said he has never heard an unkind word.

But society is often focused on disagreements, the justice pointed out. He reminisced about his childhood, recalling that his grandfather would argue with others over politics and sports, and he loved to listen to the disputes. But regardless of how much the verbal disagreements intrigued him, the fighting and politics were the very aspects of his previous position as the director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission he detested. As a justice, he said, he can just do the job.

A self-proclaimed sports enthusiast and a Huskers fan at heart, Thomas compared his position as justice to that of a referee. Neutrality and "not making up their own rules as they go along" are aspects of the Supreme Court that he said he appreciates as part of his job.

"You want consistency and impartiality from referees, and that includes referees in black robes," Thomas said.

President George H.W. Bush referred to Thomas as a good man who calls verdicts as he sees them. Because of that, the former president promised to never publicly criticize the justice for any vote he would make, whether he agreed or not. Thomas credits his praiseworthy-integrity to the promise he made to God.

"I took an oath to God to do this job impartially," Thomas said.

Sometimes playing the role of the arbitrator is not always an enjoyable one, the justice pointed out. In response to a question from a member of the audience, he stated that it is the decisions in which the guilty verdict is not entirely clear that are the most difficult. Those are the ones that give him nightmares.

Self-discipline is a necessary characteristic for someone in his line of work. It has always been difficult and still is, he said.

"If you start saying, 'because I feel a particular way I can break the rules,' then everyone can break the rules," Thomas said.

The future doesn't seem to be any easier for Thomas or his fellow Supreme Court justices. He said issues such as abortion will be rendered almost simple compared to the issues that will soon face the court. He did not give an example to his theory.

But Thomas said he is dedicated to America's judicial system and the people that it affects.

"I hope that when my tenure is over, my work will be understandable by regular people like me," Thomas said.

In addition, he said he hopes to return to Marshall in the future for a question-and-answer session with students, although his schedule will not permit a visit any time soon.

Justice Thomas Dedicates Federal Courthouse

New federal courthouse dedicated today in Orlando:
Twenty years in the making, America's newest federal courthouse was dedicated today in Orlando with pomp and pageantry including a bass-baritone singer, a police color guard, dignitaries, ribbon cuttings, magnificient stained glass windows and 500 invited guests.

But a building does not make a courthouse.

That was the message of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the keynote speaker at the official dedication of the $102 million George C. Young U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building Annex on West Central Boulevard.

"We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us," Thomas said, borrowing a line from Winston Churchill who urged the rebuilding to Britain's House of Commons after World War II bombings. "...As I stand here in this stunning new courthouse, I cannot help thinking of the issues that may be raised and the battles which will be fought some day."

Thomas spent much of his 10-minute speech on the "the rule of law" and the intent of the nation's founding fathers to insure justice in the courts like the Middle District of Florida, a growing, 35-county region which includes Orlando. And he repeatedly praised the new, six-story building, which he called "one of the nation's most beautiful public buildings" and a "spectacular exhibit to 21st Century art, architecture and engineering."
This story adds:
Afterward, Thomas participated in several ribbon-cutting ceremonies with dignitaries and was mobbed like a rock star. He signed autographs, posed for pictures and chatted with the public.

An Orlando Police Department honor guard leads U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (center), in a procession with Chief Judge of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals J.L. Edmondson (2nd from top) and Chief Middle District Judge Patricia Fawsett during the dedication ceremony of the George C. Young U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building Annex on West Central Boulevard on Friday. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel / September 21, 2007)

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas laughs during remarks at the dedication ceremony of the new George C. Young U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building Annex on West Central Boulevard on Friday. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel / September 21, 2007)

Justice Thomas Autobiography Coming Soon

Justice Thomas to finally tell his story
Publisher pays handsomely for his memoirs

September 23, 2007



WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas can count his memoir a success of sorts, even before the cash registers start ringing.

In one week, Thomas' book will hit the stores. The Oct. 1 publication of "My Grandfather's Son" coincides with the start of the high court's 2007-08 term. It also spotlights a justice known for both controversy and public reticence.

"It's the truth," longtime Thomas friend Armstrong Williams said, "versus what people have written when they haven't even sat down to talk with him."

Many others have tried plumbing the depths of the Supreme Court's lone African-American member, ever since his incendiary 1991 Senate confirmation hearings. The Library of Congress catalog already contains at least 20 biographies, anthologies and jurisprudential analyses focused on Thomas.
* * *
Here is Amazon's page for the autobiography.

Justice Thomas to Appear on 60 Minutes

So says the Legal Times blog:
Several sources now indicate the CBS interview has already taken place. Correspondent Steve Kroft conducted the interview, which took place in part inside the Supreme Court building.

Legal Times has confirmed that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has agreed to be interviewed by the CBS News show 60 Minutes later this month to kick off promotion of his new autobiography, set for publication October 1.

Knowledgeable sources say that Thomas overcame an initial reluctance about doing publicity for the book and is scheduled to appear on the top-rated news magazine show on Sunday, Sept. 30.

Thomas Records at Bush Presidential Library

Here is a file listing the 1,413 documents that are housed in the George Bush Presidential Library relating to Justice Clarence Thomas's nomination. Anyone who wants to can evidently ask for these records under the Freedom of Information Act.

National Geographic on Gullah Culture

There's an interesting tidbit about Justice Thomas in the middle of this National Geographic article on Gullah culture. Maybe this will be his next book project:
Gullah Culture in Danger of Fading Away
Dahleen Glanton
Chicago Tribune

June 8, 2001
ST. HELENA ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA—Time has stood still for more than a century on this rural island off the Atlantic Ocean. Dirt roads lead to houses where Gullah families live in clusters the way their ancestors did in Africa. Women wearing head wraps and aprons weave baskets from sea grass and sell them to tourists on their way to the affluent outlying islands.

* * *
The Gullahs who live on the island are descendants of West African slaves who worked the rice and cotton fields before they were freed and offered a chance to purchase their land. As whites deserted the coast in favor of milder climates inland, the Gullahs lived in isolation for generations, allowing them to maintain their African culture longer than any slave descendants in America.

But more than 300 years after their arrival, some fear the Gullahs' grip on the past as well as their land is slipping.

* * *

Events, such as the 15-year-old Gullah Festival held in Beaufort last month, will help to spread word of the plight and keep customs alive, said Washington, whose family still owns land on an adjacent island. And Gullah-Geechees who have moved away, such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, are stepping up. Thomas, who grew up on the Georgia coast, has said he would like to write a book about the culture.

News Article on Thomas Speaking at Oral Argument

I don't know where this article originally appeared, but I had copied this bit on my other webpage:
It was probably a joke only a lawyer could love, but Thomas drew a hearty laugh with an aside from the bench Monday about two federal laws the high court has confronted repeatedly.

Announcing the court's ruling in a complicated case about rules for certain kinds of appeals in death penalty cases, Thomas waded into a thicket of acronyms and obscure legal terms.

"I'm sure you got all that," he said at last, to laughter from the courtroom. "One of my colleagues thinks this case is about how AEDPA violates ERISA," Thomas continued, referring to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. That broke up the room.

"I'm not going to say which colleague, but he sits on my left."

Justice Stephen Breyer, on Thomas' left, grinned and giggled. The two justices, who have opposite ideologies, are frequently seen whispering and laughing during the court's oral arguments.

2006 Speech in South Dakota

Article here:
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Visits With Students at The U

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The Honorable Clarence Thomas, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, accepted an invitation to hold a series of private seminars with selected University of South Dakota students on topics of civic education and jurisprudence during a visit to the campus on Sept. 21.

The student-only sessions with the justice featured approximately 100 students who spent approximately 90 minutes in small group sessions discussing the tenets of good government, public service and democracy.

Sean Flynn from Mitchell, S. D., a junior economics and political science major, was one of the student participants. After the day’s activities, Flynn commented “I was very impressed with Justice Thomas. His remarks were candid and insightful, and it was great to be given the opportunity to meet with him.”

Students who attended the sessions were nominated by faculty members from various academic programs, including political science, law, business and the honors program.

For the past few years, Justice Thomas has met with The U’s political science and criminal justice majors visiting Washington, D.C. on the annual Department of Political Science spring break trip to the capital. Justice Thomas’s visit to the University reflects his continued association with The U.

According to Mary Pat Bierle, an instructor in The U’s Department of Political Science and faculty sponsor of the student trips, the justice is well-known for his willingness to meet with students.

“During our Washington visits, our students truly impressed Justice Thomas, which may help explain his willingness to visit with a larger group of our students here in Vermillion,” said Bierle.

Tom Cota, a junior political science and business major from Sioux Falls, S.D., not only participated in the day’s activities but also met Justice Thomas during one of the political science study trips to Washington. “Yesterday’s event was truly amazing. To have the opportunity to meet with a sitting Supreme Court Justice twice is a true honor and great educational experience. The opportunities that this University, more specifically the political science department, has awarded me are some that I will remember for the rest of my life. Justice and Mrs. Thomas were extremely gracious with their time, and really had a sincere interest in the student's lives and future plans. I thank them and the department for this opportunity,” said Cota.

Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1991, Thomas previously served in the office of the Missouri Attorney General and on the staff of U.S. Senator Jack Danforth. He also served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education and as chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and received his A.B., cum laude, from Holy Cross College.

William D. Richardson, professor of political science and director of the W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership at The U noted, “Our initial research confirms that this is The U’s first ever visit by a sitting justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Thomas has been enormously generous with his time—to the point of insisting on extending the schedule so that he could meet with more students for longer periods of time.”

Audio/Video Files

In this post, I'm going to try to collect all of the audio/video files that are available on the web. Unfortunately, some of the files that were linked on my other website have now vanished.

1. C-Span's webpage on the federal judiciary has two videos about Justice Thomas -- one is an interview, and one is a profile.

2. C-Span also has this video of a 2003 visit by Justice Thomas to Banneker High School in Washington, D.C.

3. Accuracy in Media speech. (Link currently not working.)

4. This page has the full text and the audio for Justice Thomas's February 13, 2001 speech "Be Not Afraid," delivered at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.

5. This great webpage has links to 10 sound files of events surrounding Justice Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court. It also has lots of other sound files of other historic Supreme Court Justices, such as Warren Burger.

6. This page has three sound files related to Justice Thomas's speech for the 15th Annual Ashbrook Memorial Dinner in 1999 (an introduction, the speech, and a Q&A session).

7. Here is the audio of Justice Thomas's swearing-in ceremony.

8. The Dinner for Western Civilization: Celebrating ISI's Successful 50th Anniversary Campaign.
On Thursday, May 4, 2006, ISI celebrated the completion of its successful 50th Anniversary Campaign with ISI's 1st Annual Dinner for Western Civilization, held at the famous Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware.

During its Anniversary Campaign, the Institute raised over $76 million to promote ordered liberty and a free society on college campuses. To celebrate this accomplishment, three hundred of ISI's closest friends—students, faculty, and supporters—joined ISI's staff and trustees for a memorable evening with ISI's guest of honor, the Honorable Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice for the United States Supreme Court. Justice Thomas certainly did not disappoint. He gave an electrifying speech and took time to answer the audience's questions, much to the delight of guests.
The above link has both audio and video files of Justice Thomas's speech.

9. Here's a very short video of Thomas making his "high-tech lynching" comment at his confirmation hearing.

10. Here is a short video with excerpts from Anita Hill's testimony. It includes a portion that is devastating to Hill's credibility. Senator Alan Simpson asks Hill "why in God's name" would she follow Thomas from one job to the next and keep calling him if Thomas had really said all those things to her. Hill's answer: "That's a very good question."

11. In this video, journalist Jan Crawford Greenburg discusses how influential Justice Thomas has been.

12. Justice Thomas's Speech at Mercer University, May 1993: "The New Intolerance."

13. Here is the main 60 Minutes webpage about the September 2007 interview with Justice Thomas. Here is the full transcript. And the video itself is available in two parts, here and here.

14. This page has links to the video clips of Jan Crawford Greenburg's September 2007 interview with Justice Clarence Thomas.

15. Armstrong Williams had a book party to celebrate the issuance of Justice Clarence Thomas's autobiography. Along with many VIPs, C-Span was there to film the event.

16. C-Span's Q&A (Brian Lamb) interviewed Justice Thomas about his book and his life on October 7, 2007. The video and transcript are available here.

17. In October 2007, Bill Bennett interviewed Justice Thomas on his radio show. The MP3 was posted by the Claremont Institute here.

18. On his radio show, Mark Levin interviewed Justice Clarence Thomas on October 10, 2007. The interview is available via four sound files here.

19. Justice Clarence Thomas was interviewed by Laura Ingraham (one of his early clerks) on her radio show in October 207. She mentions that it is the "first live interview" that he's ever done. The audio is available here.

Neopolitique Interview

This is from a Regent University magazine that seems to be defunct (at least the website has disappeared). Luckily, I had copied the entire two-part interview with Justice Clarence Thomas:
Preceding Justice Clarence Thomas's public appearance at Regent University, the students of the School of Government were given a rare opportunity to listen in on a conversation with his longtime friend, Dean Kay Coles James. The school's moot courtroom -- typically foreboding -- looked almost homey; transformed by two buttercream yellow highback chairs, a coffee table and fresh flowers set between them.

Before talking about his work as a civil servant, Justice Thomas, looking dapper in his navy gab blazer, starched blue oxford button-down and nautical tie, bantered back and forth with Dean James about their ongoing rivalry between the Redskins and the Cowboys. Old friends sharing memories. Most pleasing and surprising was the deep bass of the Justice's laugh, bellowing out across the auditorium and completely filling the large and stately room.

Justice Thomas offered encouragement and support -- not just a scholarly presentation -- and gave us insight into the content of his character. Following are excerpts from the conversation.

[Kay James] Who were the anchors in your life?

[Justice Clarence Thomas] I think we all have that somebody that comes along that makes a difference ... My grandparents knew, very clearly it seemed, from the time my brother and I went to live with them in 1955, what the plan was. And it was very simple. You go to school everyday, we would obey them, we would obey the teachers, and we would work during the summers, and we would never have idle moments. They believed that an idle mind was the devil's workshop. And I always wondered what he was working on.

My grandfather believed that you put one foot in front of the other and of course ... I would be remiss if I didn't say that those were not the most enchanting times. Although he was in the NAACP and worked to change things, it didn't seem to intrude upon his approach to raising us kids. And that, ultimately, he said, "we're going to teach you how to work and we're going to teach you to have, as he would say, 'how to be mannerable'" and he meant that. And if he told you something, you could take it to the bank. He would not tell us, "well you do as I say, but not as I do." He thought that was hypocrisy.

Political Ideology

[James] What's a nice person like you doing being a conservative? How did that happen? You, like I, started out to the left.

[Thomas] I was truly on the left.

[James] How far left were you?

[Thomas] Well, there was no body on the other side of me. Let's just put it this way. I thought George McGovern was a conservative.

[James] So, What happened?

[Thomas] It really was a "Road to Damascus" experience. It was actually rather interesting. First let me define where I am. I really don't refer to myself particularly as a conservative. I was defined as that to be dismissed. If you were a black conservative, you didn't have to be paid any attention; and that started after an article that appeared in the Washington Post on December 16, 1980. It was not because we defined ourselves as such.

What I do think my views and my attitude reflect are the things I was taught as a kid. I am almost indistinguishable, according to my family, from my grandfather, as far as my attitudes. I don't see where there's that big of a difference. Not that much has changed. The things you see in me are certainly a reflection; I'm becoming more like him, or became more like him after my rebellious stage. My views toward work and toward the world, toward study, toward religion, are all things that reflect the way I was raised.

[James] I didn't know I was a conservative until a newspaper reporter told me I was. I just thought I believed the stuff my mother taught me.

[Thomas] Well I didn't know I was poor until I got to New England. We thought that we did quite well. Then I was told that we were poor. And, sure, in comparison, some people had more; but I certainly can not think of a better life; of a more stable life than the one I had as a child. It wasn't perfect but it was stable and safe.

[James] What happened with those rebellious years when you sort of rejected . . .

[Thomas] I grew up, I had a wife and child ... to support; I had a job to do, I had taxes to pay, and I just suddenly grew up -- it probably started in earnest in late college years and law school. It was a wonderful advantage to be able to read and write and think.

Affirmative Action

[James] So you went to law school at Yale ...

[Thomas] Well, don't spread that around ... that's not a resume highlight for me.

[James] Was that some affirmative action program that got you in there?

[Thomas] Well, whatever it was, it's just not a resume highlight.

[James] How do you feel about that? People say that, you know, affirmative action, and I think I know how you feel about that. Is there anything you would like to share?

[Thomas] Not really (laughter) ... I'm beyond the point. . . those little jabs are irrelevant. They weren't there.

I always wonder how people who weren't there can take credit for things that you do. I laugh, to be quite honest with you about most of that ... and I'm beyond that point where I can be insulted by those sorts of things. It hurts so much because there is a real story to tell and we do it with our own kids. We tell them how they can do things for themselves and help them to benefit over long periods. We tell them about good behavior; we tell them about our Christian values and we tell them about our traditions; we tell them to study and to work hard. Why do we tell them? Because we think that those are the right things to do and it will benefit them.

When you tell kids, "it's not what they do that matters, but what someone else does; what I do or what some governmental programs do," I think you're taking away the responsibility they should have for themselves and, in fact, you're dis-empowering them. On the other side, you're doing something else. When they do achieve, you're saying to them, "well you achieved, not because you did all the right things -- you played fair, you worked hard, you studied hard, you put in the extra effort," you're saying to them, "you succeeded because I did something for you. The benefits of your success fell to me."

Everybody in this room could be someplace else today. And the people who do good things with themselves could be doing bad things. I think it's within people's capacity to make these decisions and to do well. It's incredible to me that we sit still and let it be said about one or two groups in our society, that only some powerful policy maker can determine the outcome of your lives. Only one or two groupings in our society -- it is simply not true. It's not true and I underscore that by saying that I was never the best black student when I was in segregated schools -- ever.

I was never among the brightest. So it's been clear to me since those days, that these kids are bright, they are capable. And for the life of me, why don't we tell them the same thing we tell all the other kids in our society -- unless we think that they're from Mars or they're different; some kind of degenerate. To say the latter is highly offensive.

Getting A Government Job

[James] After Yale, then what?

[Thomas] The best thing that happened to me was that I couldn't get a job out of Yale. . . it was good because ... as some doors close, other doors open ... .I wanted to go to Atlanta; I wanted to go to Savannah at one point, but that didn't work out. I wanted to go to Washington, D.C., and quite frankly, couldn't get a job. A young Attorney General came along and said, "join me in Jefferson City, Missouri." I said, "where?" And it was not much pay and I had family obligations and a lot of student loans. And I went out to Jefferson City, Missouri.

What was very difficult financially, turned out to be the most magnificent job because there was so much work, and the people's attitudes were so straightforward and honest that there was no way I could be discriminated against in. On September 14 ... I was sworn in as a member of the Missouri bar, and on September 17, I stood before the Missouri Supreme Court for my first argument. In essence, [I was] on your own ... I was absolutely scared beyond belief.

The job turned out to be with Senator Danforth, then Attorney General Danforth. [He] turned out to be one of the most honest and decent human beings ever -- just a wonderful man. There was no sensitivity training ... the sensitivity training was "you do your share of the work." It turned out to be a perfect job and of course, I would rejoin Senator Danforth in 1979.

[James] I have often said, "we should all work for something or someone that we have a great respect or admiration for." And I know that the relationship that existed and still exists today between you and Senator Danforth is very special. Now I think it's very important to share with the government students ... that you were committed to him and to working for him and to his success. And then what happened?

[Thomas] I think its interesting that he recruited me. First he said he was not going to say that he knew what it meant to be black, without money, from the south. He didn't have any of those problems. He was one of the heirs of the Danforth fortune -- the Ralston-Purina fortune -- and had a wonderful life.

The second thing he said was, "Clarence, there's plenty of room at the top." Of course, then I was still cynical and negative ... I said, "that's easy for him to say." And it turns out that less than 20 years later ... in October, 1991, sitting on the Supreme Court, you realize beyond belief, that he was absolutely right. At the time you didn't think so.

Now to your point. I made a decision when I was in the early part of my career not to ever work for money ... I would never take a job for money; never switch jobs for money ... So often we think, "I can make 15 or 20% more if I move over here." But that would mean either that I wasn't working for something that was meaningful to me, or if I was working for someone meaningful, that it was for sale. There was a price tag on it. And I've kept true to that. I will not work for people I can not look up to. I would rather starve than do that.

One favorite saying is, "You don't criticize the person who is putting food on your plate." And if I was going to work for someone about whom I was going to be critical, then I would prefer simply to leave. The positive side is that if you really fell strongly about someone, you really put in the extra effort.

[James] You were a Senate staffer ... and you shared an office, for very little money. Worked long hours. Why?

[Thomas] It was a great job ... There wasn't much money involved, but we had a heck of a time. The great thing about that job was that you were not the principal, but you got to see the principal and you got to work with all the issues. There was just so much to get involved with.

[James] And it was twelve years from that to the Supreme Court! Did everybody hear that? Twelve years from sharing a Senate office with four people, working hard, very little money.

[Thomas] I can't say I was on a career path, I was just there.

To Be A Leader, Be A Reader

[James] How did you go from a McGovern liberal to ...

[Thomas] I was never a liberal.

[James] What were you?

[Thomas] I was a radical.

[James] You were radical, o.k. How did you go from being a radical -- in terms of your ideology and your philosophy? What did you read, who did you talk to? How did you develop your thinking?

[Thomas] I read all the German philosophers; a lot of us were into relativism, nihilism, existentialism ... but then when I got to the Attorney General's office ... I started to read more economics and Tom Sowell was actually the one; when I read Race and Economics, it really moved me back to an approach that was consistent with my own predisposition and my own background. And over the years then I read others ... Hayek, Paul Johnson, there's a whole range of people. I've been through the Ayn Rand period.

The people who think intrigue me ... My wife and I were recently in England ... we spent an hour with Maggie, Lady Thatcher, and the thing that I found intriguing about it was how well read she is. And the thing that I find intriguing about so many people in leadership positions is how they think; they read serious people and they think about things. She was pulling books off her book shelf that were underlined; highlighted and thought through.

Reading is critical if you're serious. The one thing ... that I'm irritated with is people who don't want to do the heavy lifting, but they want the results. [They think] let somebody else do the heavy lifting.

On the Nature of the Court

[Thomas] It is an incredible place and the people treat it that way. There is no yelling or screaming. It is treated as dignified and honorable; everything right up to the ... the feeling you get when going to the court every day. Its not that you belong, but you're honored to be there. And not a single member of the court I've met since I've been there -- retired or acting -- would intentionally do anything to dishonor the institution or the Constitution. I think its for that reason that we're able to keep a civil environment ... even when we vehemently disagree. And having been in the dissent more times that I can count ... the point is ... people respect each other ... the way they feel about the Constitution and the country [enables us] to remain civil and respect each other.

The Secret To His Success

[Thomas] I used to carry this quote from Bobby Knight [around in my wallet]. [While] coaching the U.S. Olympic basketball team he [was] asked, "does your team have the will to win?" And he said, "every team has a will to win. The question is, do you have the will to prepare?" I carry that around because having the will to prepare is a difficult, difficult thing to hold on to when you don't know what the outcome is going to be.

You prepare for a marathon and you don't know whether you're ever going to run it. You prepare for life and you don't know how long you're going to live. You prepare for a job and you don't know if you'll ever get it. It's very, very difficult to prepare, day-in and day- out.

Ask yourself, "Do I have the will to pull the all-nighters, to sacrifice the money, to not go on vacation, to work an extra job, to not take my Saturday's off, to pull double-shifts ... do I have the will to do all those things, to be good at something?" And until you can make that commitment, I don't think you can expect the kind of success you see some people having ... .I would say to you, "have your principles, be willing to prepare for every job and every page you read, just ask yourself, am I doing this in a way that is ... going to help me be a part of the solution to the problems in our society?"

Stop Whining and Just Do It

[Thomas] I don't know if you watch any of the programs on TV ... its just whine, whine, whine, whine, whine ... I'm sick of it ... just get up and do something about it. Everybody's whining. I used to love being around my grandparents -- they never complained. If the house burned down, [grandpa would] wait until the coals were cool enough and he'd mark off another house. It was like ants ... You kick over their ant hill, they scurry around for about five minutes. You come back a couple of hours later, they're working on another ant hill. That's the way my grandparents were. Today, we're just professional complainers.

I don't know if you have friends like that. You say, "Good morning, isn't it a great day?" "Ohhhh, the sun's too bright."

The next day, "Oh man, isn't great to have a little rain, it's great for the grass?!" "Oh, gosh, it's really wet out here today."

You know, it's always something wrong; whine, whine, whine. Just stop it. Just do something about it. Just don't be apart of that whining.

You're here. You're in school. You've got an opportunity. It's great. Take full advantage of it. Use it up. And go out here in this country and be a part of the solution. If you think there's something wrong, you go and correct it. Don't wait on the other guy while you're up laying your hammock. You go and correct it.

Look, it's your problem, it's your country, it's your life. Do something about it. Don't wait on the other guy. Your being in school, and taking full advantage of it, and learning is part of that preparation. That's all I can tell you. Where it will lead you -- only God knows. And He could well lead you to the Presidency, or it could lead you back home to start a school. You don't know. But that's part of the adventure.

Words aptly spoken by a man who did something about it and embarked on an incredible adventure. The event ended with a hymn sung by a Regent Law grad. The song may be a key to understanding Thomas's source of strength: "I am determined, to be invincible, till He has finished his purpose in me. And nothing shall shake me for he'll never forsake me. I am determined, to live for the King." The Justice could be seen mouthing silently, "I am determined, to live for the King."

Following the casual conversation with the School of Government, the Editors of NP met with Justice Thomas to ask him about the future, cultivating leadership, and the challenges facing Generation X.

[NP] Are things different for today's kids than when you were growing up? What challenges do we face that you didn't?

[Justice Thomas] I am convinced... if you could just go back to the neighborhood that I grew up in and compare it -- just the physical facilities, just the house and street -- to what it was when I was there -- the exact same place...that's the only conclusion that I can arrive at. When I was there you could ride your bike up and down the street.

You know, when you go out in the woods you can hear the sounds of life, the birds and leaves rustling in the wind. And if it was still, actually still -- you went there and you heard no birds, you saw nothing moving -- you would say something weird is going on.

Well in my neighborhood now, you don't have those sounds of life. You have occasional gun shots. You have the sirens. You have the drug dealers out there. Where kids were playing, you have people standing around supplying their trade in illicit goods. When I went back in 1993, to visit my mother after I got on the court, they -- for security purposes -- at the house I grew up in, where my mother now resides, my grandparents lived there -- they took a mobile police substation and pulled it behind house. What does that tell you, if I grew up in that neighborhood? No Catholic schools there now. No nuns teaching the inner city black kids. No respect for elders who could tell you what to do and keep you out of trouble. No security to walk down the street and go to the library, or walk to school everyday. How else would I grow up? And no grandparents.

[NP] What hopes and fears do you have about the future?

[Justice Thomas] I'm one of those who thinks we're in big trouble. And I'll tell you why. I'll start with very simple things. Start with something as simple as manners. When I was part of the younger generation, when you saw an adult, it was always "yes sir," "no sir." You had to be polite and get out of the way and all sorts of things of deference. Well that's gone.

There's this notion [among Xers] that somebody owes them something. You know, an education...I was at the Price Club...and I saw this woman, and she looked tired. The place had just opened and she said...this was her second job. She worked on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, and she said that her son was off in college but that he was down in Mexico right at that moment on spring break. But he had earned the money to go to Mexico and he needed a break because he was tired and I said, "what's wrong with this picture?" You know, there is no way that I would go to Mexico if my mother was standing up ringing out at a cash register at Price Club on Saturday. Now that doesn't really capture the whole generation, but there are trends...

[NP] What advice would you give to the leaders among Generation X who are ready to assume responsibility?

[Justice Thomas] I don't think it's a lost generation, but I think that they're going to have some challenges that we didn't have. I think they're going to live long enough to regret that my generation was in authority.

We're going to hand off a mess to you. Hey, we're the ones, in my generation. [We] have given [you] a lot of rough things to deal with I'm not particularly proud of.

I don't know what to tell you. I think that those of you who still care, you're almost going to have to decide to commit your lives to do something about it and not be frustrated by the lack of change.

I used to go across this country.... I have had an audience of fourteen or fifteen people and I went to my home town of Savannah in the mid-80s and there were only two people in the audience, and one of them was a relative. But times change. And if you do things for the right reasons, you really don't worry about the fact that there are only two people in the audience; you speak as though there are 2,000 and you care as if there are 2,000.

I think it's not going to be so much that you're going to find all the answers, "Oh, I have all the answers for the next generation." It's going to be how you respond to your turn to lead, and you know what those problems are and you are closer to your generation -- and to Generation X -- and to the generation after. Your turn to lead is going to be pretty soon.

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