As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas nears his twentieth anniversary of service, his tendency towards extreme conservatism is coming under examination. Thomas, as an African-American male from a self-professed difficult background, has been found to be the least sympathetic justice to either blacks or the disadvantaged when considering cases. The man is known for his strict belief that criminal acts should be punished with the full force possible regardless of mitigating circumstances. Yet, he displays a capacity for flexibility when interpreting laws enacted to protect those in vulnerable positions. Now, as he ends the second decade of his tenure, Thomas’ conservatism is increasing as he dials back what little leniency he ever offered to defendants. USA Today reports:
… Thomas’ pattern of ruling against criminal defendants is only deeper.
“Justice Thomas is probably the most conservative on matters related to crime and punishment, followed closely by Justice (Samuel) Alito” says Cornell law professor John Blume. He notes that Alito, who joined the court in 2006, is a former federal prosecutor.
Thomas often separates himself from fellow justices with his lack of consideration for a defendant’s plight. “Some of his opinions reveal a failure to appreciate the facts and circumstances of (a defendant’s) life,” Blume said, “and a myopic focus on the crime itself.”
Examples of Clarence Thomas acting callously from his position of power are legion. Recently, Thomas wrote the supporting argument in a case that overturned a $14 million award an African-American defendant had received for a wrongful imprisonment suit that proved police had hidden helpful evidence. Thomas was also the sole justice to advocate disregarding a 1965 law that protects the rights of blacks when considering a 2009 voting rights case. In addition, Thomas tends to focus on the letter of the law when considering complex circumstances, rarely appreciating a defendant’s history or any efforts made to compensate for crimes when weighing punishments.
USA Today compares Justice Thomas with his African-American predecessor Thurgood Marshall, observing that if Thomas serves as long as Marshall did, we could have 20 more years of his intensely conservative opinion influencing America’s highest court. As he increasingly displays a hard stance, Thomas could become more than just the symbolic foe he has been to African-Americans for nearly 20 years.
Thomas’ influence impacts the decisions of today’s Supreme Court, touches the minds of current law school thinkers, and forms the basis of precedents used to argue future cases. Under Thomas, the Supreme Court could endanger black voting rights while protecting crooked cops — thus removing what little humanity the criminal justice system has left, if his recent activities are on the increase as USA Today asserts.
Justice Thomas is transforming himself from being the impotent butt of political sex jokes into our worst nightmare as his opinions strike at the legal wins blacks achieved during the civil rights era. He has made these moves quietly, rarely speaking out in court as his influence runs deep. If those on the left don’t check his insidious influence, blacks might have to fight again for the basic legal protections that we’re taking for granted.