home

Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It?

As Atrios and Ignatz say, if this is true, it's a very big deal:

An Alabama SC justice claims, according to a Birmingham News reporter, that Clarence Thomas told him:

[A] judge should be evaluated by whether he faithfully upholds his oath to God, not to the people, to the state or to the Constitution.

Atrios says,

"This is indeed a big deal, no matter what your personal religious views happen to be. Did he really say it? Will anyone else in the media bother to try to find out?"

Ignatz says,

"Did Alabama's new Supreme Court Justice really think he heard Justice Thomas say that? Did Justice Thomas really say it? It is, of course, impossible for any of us to get Justice Thomas under oath and ask him. We should, at least, create enough of a hubbub about the issue so as to make him feel that it is appropriate to issue a public statement confirming or denying that he really said it."

Tena of First Draft says what I would say, only better:

Supreme Court justices have one job: to interpret the constitution and laws of the United States, using only legal standards. God has nothing to do with it. It is a violation of a justice's oath to place any law above the Constitution of the United States. If Justice Thomas really did say this, it needs to be known that he did. If he didn't, he needs to be asked to prove that.

< Mandatory Retirement for Sup. Ct. Justices? | Mick Jagger Wins the Golden Globe >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft


  • Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 07:56:47 PM EST
    That's scary. Very, very scary.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#2)
    by wishful on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 08:06:34 PM EST
    What media? ... No... Wouldn't be prudent.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Pete Guither on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 08:09:42 PM EST
    Sorry -- third and fourth paragraphs should have both been italicized. Those were Scalia's remarks.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 08:15:37 PM EST
    Perhaps he is referring to his final judgement rather than those of his peers. During final judgement it's not what you did to please your fellow man, but what you did that pleased God!!

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#6)
    by glanton on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 08:22:27 PM EST
    Real Men Love Jesus: Try to keep up, now. I know it's tough. We're not in church, this isn't a meeting where we're about to break out and start speaking in tongues. We're talking about Constitutional Law, not Biblical Law. Contrary to what Rupert Murdoch has been feeding you, there's a difference between the two.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 09:10:10 PM EST
    No need to patronize, glanton. The alleged quote from Thomas, again:
    [A] judge should be evaluated by whether he faithfully upholds his oath to God, not to the people, to the state or to the Constitution.
    RMLJ is saying that if the quote means that God should evaluate a judge this way, then that's just a statement of personal belief. If Thomas meant that citizens and the government should evaluate a judge this way, then we have a heap of trouble. What exactly is the oath of office that Supreme Court Justices swear, usually with one hand on a Bible? Oh yeah:
    According to Title 28, Chapter I, Part 453 of the United States Code, each Supreme Court Justice takes the following oath: "I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.''
    He asks God's help to judge people under the Constitution, not the other way around. It seems to me that if he puts God first, God wouldn't be too happy about breaking that oath, either. The ends don't justify the means.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#8)
    by glanton on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 09:28:29 PM EST
    Thanks for clearing that up, Matt. I feel much better now.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 09:31:16 PM EST
    Before we get our collective knickers in a twist, let's get both the direct quote and the context in which that quote was made. Also, I tend to like my sources to be just a little bit better than "a reporter claims that someone claims that". Without more, this smacks of a witch hunt - despite the fact that I find Thomas to have ZERO redeeming qualities as a jurist. Let's just give him the benefit of the doubt until we see something more substantive than courtroom gossip.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 10:14:52 PM EST
    As Atrios and Ignatz say... an Alabama SC justice claims, according to a Birmingham News reporter, that Clarence Thomas told him In legal terms, that's called hearhearhearhearsay.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Pete Guither on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 11:15:46 PM EST
    This is a serious concern, and not only with Thomas. While this would be the most direct statement I've heard, I've already been concerned with some of the approaches of Scalia. For instance, in a speech about the death penalty on January 25, 2002, he invokes St. Paul and says: Few doubted the morality of the death penalty in the age that believed in the divine right of kings, or even in earlier times, St. Paul had this to say : ... "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation, for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. Wherefore, ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." Rom 13:1-5. This is not the Old Testament, I emphasize, but St. Paul. One can understand his words as referring only to lawfully constituted authority or even only to lawfully constituted authority that rules justly, but the core of his message is that government, however you want to limit that concept, derives its moral authority from God. It is the minister of God with powers to revenge, to execute wrath, including even wrath by the sword, which is unmistakably a reference to the death penalty. Of course, my strong concern there is that the constitution says that the government derives its authority from the people, not from God. (Not to mention that I find it silly and bizarre to think that Bush, Clinton, and Hussein have all received their moral authority from God). Scalia is in essence (like Thomas) downplaying the role of the constitution and the people compared to the role of God in Supreme Court decisions.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 11:27:08 PM EST
    IF it is true, it is pretty troubling.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:43:37 AM EST
    Is that wrong? Is that not we meant by Civil Disobediance? Is that not what we wanted the Germans to do? Is that not we we wanted the people over in Iraq to do? i.e. follow the GOOD rather than the LAW. It seems to me that all of us who believe in a "higher" good, be it GOD or ETHICAL based, want to be judged on that basis not on whether we follow the man made laws of the country. That being said, I think that the country has the right to jail people for not obeying its laws, and that perhaps an official should step down if he does not want to perform his duties with respect to the laws of the land.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 04:53:52 AM EST
    Mike L - Yes, true. But you see, in this case the Left will tell you what is GOOD and what is NOT GOOD. DA - Well, let me see. A reporter claims that a judge claims. Now that is something, if not heresay.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#15)
    by pigwiggle on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 05:52:30 AM EST
    “Before we get our collective knickers in a twist, let's get both the direct quote and the context in which that quote was made.” No, I think it is time for speculation and oratory. After all, how can a gem like this be passed up?

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#16)
    by Pete Guither on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 06:23:05 AM EST
    It says a lot about the current state of media trust (along with some positive things about restraint), that this was a newspaper quoting a judge, and yet all the blogs are going with statements like "if it's true..." and recommending further investigation. Now let's hope that someone follows through and asks the right questions of both the Alabama SC Justice and Thomas.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#17)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 06:23:48 AM EST
    This might be indicative of a problem IF it is true that he said it and IF it is clear from the context that he meant what it sounds like he means. However, I would have a lot more faith in this entire "news" claim if that judge were willing to stand up and say it out loud, instead of whispering it into a reporter's ear "off the record". If we knew who this guy was, we could at least check to see if he's ever even been in the same room with Thomas, which would at least suggest it's possible he's telling the truth.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 06:55:59 AM EST
    how can a gem like this be passed up?
    It sure beats "Is that a pubic hair on my Coke?"

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#20)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:26:33 AM EST
    To those of us who watched the Thomas nomination hearings and believed Ms. Hill, Thomas is a disgusting, sneaky pig who should have been disbarred, let alone confirmed. Therefore, I give the benefit of the doubt to the source and not to Thomas, until I hear otherwise.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#21)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:46:11 AM EST
    mfox, Doesn't that equate with "guilty until proven innocent"? I'm surprised to see such a view expressed on a defense lawyer site, but whatever. If you approach everything about Thomas with the view that he "is a disgusting, sneaky pig who should have been disbarred, let alone confirmed", you will naturally believe anything negative said about him; maybe even Harry Reid's drivel about his writing and intelligence. I would note, however, that giving the benefit of the doubt to a source unwilling to be identified is a dangerous practice if your interest is truth. People will say many untrue things under the cloak of anonymity; taking them at face value because we don't like the person involved simply invites more of the same.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#22)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:50:02 AM EST
    DA - Nope. I'm just saying he said, he said. Now that's something I would really bet the farm on. JustPaul - Well said.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#23)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:05:08 AM EST
    JustPaul, I cannot argue with anything you said and I don't advocate anyone (including myself) making a practice of it. I even try to give GW the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I believe in the Jeffersonian principle that "it is better to let 10 guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man" (I paraphrase here). However, Thomas is the one man I can truly say this about. His confirmation was the occasion of my first public protest ever. I felt and still feel very strongly that justice was not served or even persued in the Kangaroo court that was those hearings. Not because of any hidden evidence, but because of the overt and hostile bias towards the very credible Anita Hill. Therefore, believing him a liar and coward as I do, his grossly inappropriate behavior towards Ms. Hill doesn't concern me as much as his willingness to hide behind his friends coattails and watch her be roasted and toasted in the public's glare. So, justpaul, past behavior goes toward crediblity, which stuff this justice has little of in my book (not even counting his judicial record of which I could speak much). Additionally, when we're talking about Supreme Court Justices, allegations of this sort must be taken very seriously and presumptive innocence measured carefully.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#24)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:51:11 AM EST
    Of course, we can judge Thomas' intelligence and literacy (ala Harry Reid) by reading hie published opinions, which pretty much prove Reid correct. We cannot judge whether he made this statement.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#25)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:57:26 AM EST
    It is better that ten guilty escape than one innocent suffer. William Blackstone

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#26)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:20:13 AM EST
    ytterby, Care to offer an example of such a poorly written decision? Harry Reid tried and ended up getting caught out in another lie when he claimed that Scalia's dissent in the same case was an example of pure logic; Scalia didn't even dissent in the case he mentioned. On top of that, Thomas' dissent was clear and concise, which is maybe why Reid had a problem with it. He's too used to talking in circles. So if you have an example of a poorly written decision penned by Thomas, please provide one. I'm not a big supporter of his, but this argument of Reid's has been flying for over a month without one person offering up a real example to back it up.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#27)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:29:47 AM EST
    mfox - So you believe guilty of one crime, guilty of all?? Now that is Jefferson.... Not. If I remember, this was a "he said she said" situation. Her charge happened years before, and she only came forward after he was nominated. Whether or not she was truthful we will probably never know. Many have said that the best thing that came out of this was the increased awareness of sexual harassment in the work place. The notion that consensual sex can not take place between a boss and employee because of the power relation ship, was greatly enhanced and highlighted. NOW in particular made this a key point. Yet only seven years later Bill Clinton's actions with Monica were defended by many who had attacked Thomas. In fact, in many corporations his actions would have gotten him fired, as would have his actions with Jennifer Flowers. And the claims of Juanita Broderick were almost completely ignored. Based on your, "Sp.... past behavior goes toward crediblity" comment, I am sure you condemrd Clinton's actions and called for his resignation.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#28)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 11:27:28 AM EST
    Justpaul, I know, I know. Thomas's past indiscretions (as judged by me based on his testimony) have no bearing whatsoever in this instance. The guy just makes me spew venom. I also don't give him credit for furthering the cause of intolerance of sexual harassment at work. Re: Clinton - for a number of reasons off topic for this thread, I don't see Clinton's discretions in the same light as Thomas' as Ms. Hill had no desire to further a sexual relationship while Ms. Lewinsky did. However, I do deserve to have cries of hypocrisy sounded about this comment. I do hope it is true and that Clarence will be judged by God on earth pre-judgment day.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#29)
    by pigwiggle on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:22:43 PM EST
    “for a number of reasons off topic for this thread, I don't see Clinton's discretions in the same light as Thomas' as Ms. Hill had no desire to further a sexual relationship while Ms. Lewinsky did.” I see this point raised frequently, excusing Clinton’s behavior. If it were just a consensual affair I say, get your freak on. However, disregarding the obvious problem with the inequality of power in the employment setting, Clinton lied while being investigated for (alleged) criminal behavior on par with Thomas’ (alleged) behavior. I’m not one of your Clinton haters, I find myself nostalgic for the carefree days of Monica-gate. Lets be consistent here, though.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#30)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:35:39 PM EST
    Appreciated, pigwiggle. However, I repeat that "I don't see Clinton's [in]discretions in the same light as Thomas'" with regard to moral culpability. Perhaps in legal terms as it applies to the employer/employee relationship. But I see Clinton as a woman lover (purely subjective) and Thomas as a woman hater. Please note, once again, that I cannot rationally support my position - it is entirely subjective.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#31)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 03:05:01 PM EST
    Just don't try to tell me who "God" is.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#32)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:16:06 PM EST
    Quality of Thomas' decisions I'm not educated enough to determine. Quality of his morality?? Clearcut. As someone who assented, without recusing himself for obvious bias, to Bush v. Gore, he is a man of no character or morality, a shame on the Bench, and part of the worst failure to balance power in the history of the SCOTUS. "ii) Justice Thomas's wife worked for an ultra-conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, and she was involved directly in transition planning for George W. Bush on behalf of the Heritage Foundation, a fact reported by the Los Angeles Times on December 13, 2000;" source (bolding mine) In a murder case, that would be grounds for dismissal. When those five justices put that HUGE t*rd on their heads, that wasn't Thom. Jefferson making them do it -- it was their act, and their eternal shame. They should be disbarred, outright.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#33)
    by pigwiggle on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 05:47:39 AM EST
    PinLA “ultra-conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation” Until now I’ve only read their financial policy releases, but after your characterization I decided to look further. They appear to have mainstream conservative views. In any event, it looks like the foundation solicited democrats as well as republican planning for either potential administration. Further, these folks weren’t working for the president, they were seeking to influence the president whomever was elected; and of course GWB was their clear favorite. But I don’t see how the justice’s wife working for a conservative non-profit should exclude him. The Gore legal team agrees, as they raised no objection.

    Re: Did Justice Clarence Thomas Really Say It? (none / 0) (#35)
    by pigwiggle on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 08:43:04 AM EST
    DA- “Still say it's a case of 'he said, he said'?” This one is easy. In you post the first ‘he said’ is “This is what the Alabama SC justice said” and the second ‘he said’ is “He admonished us to remember that the worth of a justice should be evaluated by one thing, and by one thing alone: whether or not he is faithful to uphold his oath _ an oath which as Justice Thomas pointed out is not to the people; it's not to the state; it's not even to the Constitution, which is one to be supported, but is an oath which is to God Himself.”