Clarence Thomas needs to speak more. Not for his benefit. For America’s.
This is the justice’s twenty-fifth year on the Supreme Court. He is famously reticent. Not only on the bench, where in February he shocked the media by asking a question during oral argument for first time in a decade, but also in public life.
Other than his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, a 60 Minutes interview that accompanied its release, and a smattering of public appearances, including his eulogy for Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas is more likely to be seen at a RV camp or Nebraska football game than symposia, colloquia, book signings, and public lectures.
But this week is different. He appeared on Conversations With Bill Kristol and at the Heritage Foundation to mark his quarter century of service. The two interviews showcase the common sense, devotion, humility, and curiosity of a legal mind not given its due. I recommend these two essays from The Weekly Standard if you are interested in the field of law. For the rest of us, it is enough to hear from Justice Thomas himself.
He recently taught at the University of Georgia. The topic was legal precedent. “If you’re a doctor and someone comes in with a complicated health problem,” he tells Bill Kristol, “I think a doctor, they’d say, ‘Get a second opinion, let’s run a couple of tests to make sure. Let’s do this, let’s do that, I think this is the answer, but we should do some more tests to make sure.’ Why don’t we do that with the law? That’s basically the approach that we take with originalism.”
The law, he says, is like a train. The initial case is the engine. But each additional ruling adds another car to the rig. A judge should not concern himself only with the most recent addition.
“You have an obligation to take your time, walk through all the cars, see what’s up in the engine of the train, see who’s driving. It may be an orangutan, for all we know; it may be going over a cliff, for all we know; it may be running headlong into a station, for all we know. Then why are we adding another car?” …
Continue reading at The Washington Free Beacon
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