Former Law Clerks Defend Clarence Thomas
As Democrats continue to attack a conservative Supreme Court justice, his former law clerks are coming to his defense. A total of 112 of Justice Clarence Thomas’s former law clerks wrote a letter earlier this week defending his character, his integrity, and his jurisprudence.
The clerks wrote in part: “Justice Thomas is a man of greatest intellect, of greatest faith, and of greatest patriotism. We know because we lived it. He is a man of unwavering principle. He welcomes the lone dissent. … We are proud to have been his clerks and to remain his friends, and we unequivocally reject attacks on his integrity, his character, or his ethics.”
The letter was written in response to calls for Thomas to resign and an effort by Democrats to launch a Department of Justice investigation into Thomas over allegations of unethical conduct. Thomas and his fellow conservative Justice Samuel Alito, author of the Dobbs opinion which overturned Roe v. Wade, have been accused of violating ethical standards by flying on private jets and vacationing with wealthy friends, with Democrats calling into question the jurisprudential integrity of both Thomas and Alito. Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island accused the two justices as being “enmired” in a “massive, secret, right-wing billionaire influence…”
Thomas and Alito both just released their 2022 financial disclosure statements Thursday in accord with rules changed by the Judicial Conference Committee just last month.
In a rare interview this summer with The Wall Street Journal, Alito explained that he had expected the Supreme Court bar to defend him and Thomas from these character attacks, as it has traditionally been the bar’s role to do so while justices retain an impartial silence. He continued, “But that’s just not happening. And so at a certain point I’ve said to myself, nobody else is going to do this, so I have to defend myself.”
In Thomas’s case, his former clerks have come to his defense. In their letter, they trace their former boss’s personal history, starting with his beginnings as a poor, fatherless black child living with his mother and brother in a one-room apartment in Savannah, Georgia. “Then, still just a child,” the letter reads, “taking all his belongings in a half-filled paper grocery bag, he went to live with his grandparents, Myers and Christine Anderson. It was the longest and most significant journey of his life.”
Thomas was raised by his grandfather, even entitling his autobiography “My Grandfather’s Son.” Thomas and his brother also became Catholic, like their grandfather, who enrolled them at a Catholic school run by Irish nuns. Thomas has noted that, growing up as both black and Catholic, he belonged to arguably the two most-hated demographics in the Deep South of the 1950s. He joined seminary to become a Catholic priest, but the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, as well as the resulting social upheaval, spurred Thomas to leave the seminary, go to law school, and devote himself to, in the words of his former law clerks, “doing better for his son.”
The letter notes that Thomas discovered and then became disenchanted with the Black Power movement and liberal progressivism’s approach to race. Instead, Thomas “took the road less traveled,” going to work for Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Jack Danforth before finding a position in the Reagan administration. The justice’s clerks write:
“He pulled at every thread of his country’s founding and its history — a country that had simultaneously enslaved his ancestors while declaring ‘all men are created equal.’ He became a judge. And ultimately, a Justice. This is the story of Justice Clarence Thomas. It is a story that should be told in every American classroom, at every American kitchen table, in every anthology of American dreams realized.”
“And yet,” write the clerks, “the stories most often told of Justice Thomas are not these. The Justice is ever the subject
of political headlines taking aim at his character, his judicial philosophy, his marriage, even his race.” The letter condemns the attacks on Thomas’s character, ethics, and integrity, clarifying that “these stories are malicious, perpetuating the ugly assumption that the Justice cannot think for himself. They are part of a larger attack on the Court and its legitimacy as an institution.” The letter concludes:
“As his law clerks, we offer this response. Different paths led us to our year with Justice Thomas, and we have followed different paths since. But along the way, we all saw with our own eyes the same thing: His integrity is unimpeachable. And his independence is unshakable, deeply rooted seven decades ago as that young child who walked through the door of his grandparents’ house for a life forever changed.”
The former clerks who signed the letter include notable lawyers, TV news personalities, and even several sitting Circuit Court judges. Thomas is the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, having taken his seat in 1991. October will mark his 33rd year on the court.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.