Justice Clarence Thomas

  • June 19, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    The staff of The Root provides statements from civil rights organizations responding to the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina at a historically black church.  

    Nina Totenberg of NPR takes a look at the two major Supreme Court free speech cases that were decided yesterday.

    At The Atlantic, Garrett Epps discusses Justice Clarence Thomas’s position in the recently decided Texas license plate case and how his vote was deciding in taking on “a symbol of white supremacy.”

    Other coverage of the Texas license plate case comes from Noah Feldman at Bloomberg View who argue that Justice Thomas “was telling us that the Confederate battle flag still means something” in his decision to join the majority.

    At the Los Angeles Times, David Savage and Noam Levey consider the legal arguments that have a chance of swaying the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell.

  • October 27, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    On the Media discusses the recent ACS-sponsored “Skewed Justice” report with Joanna Shepherd, co-author of the study and Professor of Law at Emory Law School.

    In The Boston Globe, Martha Minow writes about the large number of Americans who cannot afford legal counsel and the risk that this poses to the principle of “equal justice under law.”

    Adam Liptak reports in The New York Times on the recent Yale Law School visit of Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Justice Sonia Sotomayor where the justices discussed the Court’s wariness of new technology, diversity, and salsa dancing.

    In USA Today, Richard Wolf previews Zivotofsky v. Kerry, a case that considers which branch of government has the authority to recognize foreign countries.

    Dahlia Lithwick of Slate questions the Supreme Court’s eagerness to protect First Amendment rights and ignore the rights to vote and obtain an abortion.

    The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times laments the new era of voter suppression. 

  • May 19, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Frederick Gedicks, Guy Anderson Chair and Professor in Law, Brigham Young University Law School

    The recent case of Town of Greece v. Galloway saw Justice Clarence Thomas once again astride a favorite hobby horse, the benighted notion that both logic and text should have precluded the application of the Establishment Clause against the states. As in his many other forays into this field, Thomas concedes that the Clause (“probably”) prohibits a federally established church, but he otherwise reads the Clause as entirely devoted to the protection of state sovereignty—specifically, state power to establish or disestablish religion. Like the 10th Amendment, Thomas maintains, the Establishment Clause was meant to protect the states and thus is rendered absurd when applied to limit state power. Thomas relies on this purported absurdity to excuse himself from any serious engagement of the historical record, unilaterally shifting the burden of historical proof to incorporationists. As I have shown elsewhere in detail, all of this is demonstrably wrong.

    It is puzzling that such an ardent champion of federalism as Justice Thomas should fail to grasp that the Establishment Clause, like the Constitution’s other structural limitations on the federal government, was originally understood to protect individual liberty as well as state sovereign power. The Federalist Papers repeatedly emphasize that the division of sovereignty between the federal government and the states protects both state power and personal liberty from federal power. The Court’s own precedents emphasize this as well, most recently in Bond v. United States (2011), a unanimous opinion which unambiguously declared, “Federalism... protects the liberty of all persons within a State by ensuring that laws enacted in excess of delegated governmental power cannot direct or control their actions.”

  • November 19, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    It’s not where he said it; it’s what Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had to say about the ruling in Citizens United and the role of the federal government that warrants any kind of notice.

    Alito has long been defensive of the high court’s handiwork in a decision that gave more power to corporate interests to spend their expenditures on politicking. That 2010 high court opinion in Citizens United v. FEC overturned longstanding court precedent allowing for some regulation of campaign financing by corporations. During the 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama blasted the Court for trampling that precedent and added that it would become a boon for special interests, including foreign ones, and Alito was caught on camera uttering, “Not true.”

    Recently the severely conservative judge (he was far right as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit) again sounded a defensive note on Citizens United before the Federalist Society’s 2012 National Lawyers Convention. Alito, as reported by the Associated Press, said all kinds of newspapers and television news and opinion broadcasts, many owned by vast corporate interests, sound off on and provide endorsements of candidates.

    “The question is whether speech that goes to the very heart of government should be limited to certain preferred corporations; namely media corporations,” Alito said during a keynote address at the group’s 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner on Nov. 15. “Surely the idea that the First Amendment protects only certain privileged voices should be disturbing to anybody who believes in free speech.”

    Beyond defending the opinion, and shooting a few asides at critics of the opinion, Alito sounded what is a frequent Tea Party or rightwing talking point about ever-expanding powers of the federal government, saying that the views advanced by the administration in several cases before the high court revealed a vision of a society dominated by a towering federal government.

  • March 30, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Before this week’s marathon oral arguments in the case challenging health care reform, many legal scholars, had strongly argued that the challengers’ arguments did not have a serious chance of surviving Supreme Court scrutiny.

    Primarily the reasoning was based on high court precedent in favor of a broad reading of Congress’ power to regulate commerce and to tax and spend for the general welfare.

    But those perceptions have been rocked following three lengthy days of oral argument, in which Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito appeared to have bought the challengers’ arguments against the minimum coverage provision, and, at times, revealed utter callousness toward national lawmakers’ attempt to reform a terribly inefficient and exclusive health care system that has left tens of millions uninsured.

    Moreover as The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted, several of the justices appeared utterly or willfully ignorant of how “insurance works.” Krugman said Scalia’s comparison of purchasing health care insurance to buying broccoli “horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli.”

    “Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick – which what happens in the absence of a mandate – the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those  who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn’t work, and never has,” Krugman wrote.

    Walter Dellinger, former Solicitor General, at an ACS briefing on the oral arguments in HHS v. Florida, said it appeared, based mostly on their questions that three justices look ready to strike the minimum coverage provisions. Justice Samuel Alito’s questions were almost as hostile as Scalia’s and most, including Dellinger, believe Justice Clarence Thomas will vote to invalidate the law’s integral provision.

    But Dellinger (pictured) is still holding out hope that two more justices will not join those three in killing health care reform.

    “If there were five,” he said, “I would be shocked, because I think it would take us back to the jurisprudence of the 1920s. I think it would be the most stunning and indefensible judicial decision in half a century. It would be paired with Bush v. Gore in the law books forever.”