Tag Archives: Clarence Thomas

Mystery solved: What Thomas actually said

Brace yourselves: The simmering mystery over the words Justice Clarence Thomas used to break his nearly seven-year silence during oral arguments has been solved!

The U.S. Supreme Court has published the final – and revised – transcript from oral arguments in the ineffective assistance case Boyer v. Louisiana revealing the joke Thomas cracked in response to Justice Antonin G. Scalia’s observation that the defendant’s attorneys went to Harvard and Yale law schools.

“Well, there – see, he did not provide good counsel,” Thomas replied, drawing laughter from his colleagues.


The Funniest Justice, week 8: Breaking silence with laughter

History has been made: For the first time since DC Dicta began counting the laughs at oral arguments, Justice Clarence Thomas is on the board! The usually silent justice made a funny – if unintelligible – comment Monday, lifting him from the last-place spot he’s occupied in our tally since it began six years ago.

(Not to be outdone, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. also earned his first laugh of the term during the same argument, leaving Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the only justice yet to show a funny side).

Here are the stats after eight weeks of arguments:

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 25

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 19

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.: 7

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 6

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 4

Justice Elena Kagan: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 1

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 1

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0


Could Thomas be the presidential game changer?

With no clear frontrunner in the GOP presidential primary race, some are saying the contest could go all the way to the convention. And if no clear winner is chosen by the delegates on their first vote, support could be thrown behind an entirely new candidate, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or – Justice Clarence Thomas?

That is a possible scenario, according to the Daily Beast’s  Adam Winker.

“Far-fetched?  Maybe,” Winkler writes. “But a Thomas candidacy would energize Republicans in a way that few other Republicans can and would steal tremendous media attention from President Barack Obama.”

Thomas’ strong Tea Party connection – his wife, Ginni, is a Tea Party supporter aligned with groups that advocate for the repeal of the health care law – could make the justice an attractive choice, Winkler suggests. So would his stance on environmental regulation, free markets and his own “up-by-his-bootstraps story of rising from incredible poverty,” he said.

Winkler noted that the idea of the Thomas presidency was first floated two years ago by legal bloggers David Lat and Kashmir Hill.

Mukasey: Supreme healthcare recusal calls ‘nonesense’

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey thinks the arguments being made by those calling on Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to recuse themselves from consideration of the health care challenge are “nonsense.”

In an editorial today in the Wall Street Journal, Mukasey, who helmed the Justice Department for two years under President George W. Bush, takes on critics who think the justices should be disqualified because of Thomas’ wife’s work for groups advocating for the law’s demise and  Kagan’s work as solicitor general when the health care challenges began.

Mukasey takes a strictly legal approach to the situation. The facts underlying the allegations of potential bias do not raise to the level of federal recusal standards, he concludes.

Mukasey wrote; “upon even a cursory examination of the facts it is clear that neither justice should step aside. The court we have should decide the case.”

He noted, however, that the calls for the justices to step aside are not legal at all, but rather a political – a symptom of the increasingly politicized atmosphere the justices face from the time that they sit before the Senate for confirmation.

“The selection of judges has become a high stakes exercise for agenda-driven politics, with nominees often selected with at least one eye focused on their expected tilt on the issues of the day,” Mukasey wrote. “[Later, w]hen contentious cases then come before them, the agenda-driven politics that helped seat the judges does not disappear, nor do the stakes diminish; they rise—along with incentives to disqualify judges.”

Lawmaker continues to press White House on Kagan’s role in health care law’s defense

Rep. Lamar Smith is amplifying his call to the White House to disclose more information about Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s involvement in crafting the defense of the federal health care overhaul when she was solicitor general now that the Court is set to decide the law’s constitutionality.

“Justice Elena Kagan may have played a role in the development and defense of the president’s health-care law during her tenure as U.S. solicitor general,” the Texas Republican wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. “Despite claims from Obama administration officials that Kagan was not involved in the health-care discussions, e-mails released last month indicate that there may be more to the story.”

Smith is one of several Republican lawmakers and conservative interest groups who have raised concerns about Kagan’s participation in the case. The Justice Department released emails from Kagan’s tenure as solicitor general which show, according to the Obama administration, that measures were taken to shield Kagan from involvement in the defense of the law, which was challenged in federal courts as Kagan was rumored to be a candidate to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Court.

But Smith said some of the emails are inconsistent  with that position, and the White House should provide more information.

“The NFL wouldn’t allow a team to officiate its own game,” Smith worte. “If, as solicitor general, Kagan did advise administration officials on the constitutionality of the president’s health-care law, she should not officiate when the matter comes before the Supreme Court.”

Smith noted that both Kagan and Justice Clarence Thomas – whose wife is affiliated with groups opposing the law – are facing increasing calls by some interest groups to step aside in the case. But according to Smith, the questions raised about Kagan are much more serious.

“[C]oncerns about the job or personal views of a justice’s spouse are not the same as concerns that a justice may have been involved in a matter before it reached the high court,” Smith wrote.

Lawmakers turn up pressure on Thomas, Kagan over health care conflict questions

Members of Congress are amplifying their calls to judicial and Justice Department officials demanding investigations of two Supreme Court justices’ alleged conflicts of interest in the health care reform case pending at the Court.

Since the Court agreed to consider the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law’s individual mandate as well as several other substantive and procedural issues related to the law, calls from members of Congress for Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to sit out have grown louder.

Friday New York Democrat Rep. Louise Slaughter sent a letter, signed by 52 House members, to the U.S. Judicial Conference requesting a Justice Department investigation into Thomas’ initial failure to include on financial disclosures his wife’s income from organizations opposing the health care law. It’s the second time the lawmaker has asked the Conference to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney General.

In January, Thomas amended the disclosure forms, calling the initial omission of his wife, Virginia Thomas’ income from the Heritage Foundation an oversight attributable to a “misunderstanding of the filing instructions.”

Meanwhile Senate Republicans are also pressing Attorney General Eric Holder over the health care case, seeking information on whether Kagan’s work as solicitor general creates a conflict of interest that precludes her involvement in the case.

According to Politico, Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, sent a letter to Holder saying the Justice Department has handled questions about Kagan in a “highly questionable manner” and demanding clarification on Kagan’s role.

“Your Department’s refusal to provide information to the Congress that could eliminate this apparent conflict of interest only undermines … confidence [in the administration of justice] further,” the letter stated.

Emails recently released from the Justice Department reveal that, in 2010, then-Solicitor General Kagan called Senate support for the health care bill “simply amazing.”

Health care stakeholders fete Scalia, Thomas

Hours after the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court conferenced to consider the challenge to the federal health care overhaul Thursday, two justices were the featured guests at an event co-sponsored by a number of stakeholders in the case.

According to the Los Angeles Times, among the sponsors of Thursday night’s Federalist Society annual dinner, which honored Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, was the law firm Bancroft. Bancroft partner and former Solicitor General Paul Clement is the lead attorney in one of the three health care cases the Court agreed to take up.

Another sponsor of the event was Jones Day, which represents one of the trade associations that also challenged the law.

And a third sponsor was pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which obviously has a financial stake in the cases’ outcome.

Of course, those were among a dozen sponsors of the event, and at the time the parties had no way of knowing that the Court had voted to take the cases up earlier that day. The Court didn’t announce its certiorari grant until Monday morning. Also, as the Times pointed out, the justices have attended Federalist Society events for years, and their attendance breaks no ethics rules.

Health care case gets full Court – Kagan and Thomas included

When the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide the constitutionality of the federal health care law’s individual mandate, as well as several other jurisdictional and substantive issues, there was a notable omission: no mention was made about recusal of any justice from the decision.

Despite calls from advocates on both sides of the political spectrum for Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to remove themselves from any consideration of the health care case, all indications suggest both will be present during the 5 ½ hours of oral arguments slated for the spring. Normally a justice who recuses from a particular case will indicate it in the cert order. But no such indication was made yesterday by Thomas or Kagan.

Critics of Thomas cite the work of the justice’s wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, founded a Tea Party-affiliated group that has called the health care law unconstitutional and worked for the Heritage Foundation, which also opposes the health care law.

Meanwhile some Republican lawmakers have called for an investigation into the role Kagan played in preparing the legal defense to challenges to the health care law during her tenure as solicitor general.

Justices decide for themselves whether to sit out any given cases due to some potential conflict.

“Presumably, they made whatever judgments they were going to make,” said Greg Katsas, a Jones Day partner representing one of the petitioners in the case, told The Hill.

Clarence Thomas’ wife interviews Herman Cain

Cain photo by Gage Skidmore

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, under fire over sexual harassment allegations from his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association, avoided questions about the topic from some media outlets. But yesterday he agreed to sit down with someone who may be more of a sympathetic audience: Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“Are reporters setting you up to be guilty until proven innocent?” asked the justice’s wife of Cain in a videotaped interview posted on the Daily Caller’s website. Virginia Thomas has been a correspondent for the conservative news site founded by Tucker Carlson since the spring of this year.

“That is the DC culture: guilty until proven innocent,” Cain replied.

Virginia Thomas

It was 20 years ago last month that Justice Thomas, during his confirmation hearings, was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. Last year Virginia Thomas made her now infamous phone call to Hill asking for an apology for the accusation. Hill has stood by her assertions. Mrs. Thomas later said the phone call was “probably a mistake on my part.”

During the interview, Mrs. Thomas asked Cain if “campaigning in Washington, DC [was] a disorienting experience?”

“It can be very disorienting,” Cain laughed. “The way questions are asked when I’m speaking to a group here in DC, is coming from a totally different perspective than when I’m being asked questions from the real people.”

He said that disconnect is why he has risen in the polls to be the frontrunner in the GOP race.

Stevens defends Thomas

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens defended his former Supreme Court colleague Justice Clarence Thomas, who is under fire from some members of Congress who want Tomas investigated on conflict-of-interest charges.

Some lawmakers have called on Thomas to recuse himself from the health care constitutional challenge, and some have also asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Thomas violated ethics rules when he failed to disclose his wife’s income from conservative and Tea Party- related organizations on his financial disclosures.

But Stevens said he does not believe Thomas’s wife’s activities nor the financial disclosure omissions have any effect on the way Thomas deliberates.

“I … don’t think there’s a chance in the world that it will affect his vote,” Stevens told USA Today’s Joan Biskupic. “That is one vote that you really can predict.”

But Stevens also said of the Thomases: “You can’t help but wish that they had a lower profile.”