Monday, February 14, 2011

Clarence Thomas's silence on bench is anything but golden

Black Buzz News Service
Silver Spring, MD
February 14, 2011

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas peppered an attorney with a question during oral arguments on a South Carolina death penalty case. The questioning of an attorney by a Supreme Court Justice would normally not make news but Thomas's question did, not because it was penetrating, involved a complex point of law, elicited important data, or because he asked it out of just plain curiosity, but because he even asked it at all. It was a rarity. He asked it five years ago and hasn't asked another question since then.

His well-documented silence on the court for the past five years has been the butt of jokes, ridicule, and just plain wonderment. How could a high court justice sit Sphinx like while his colleagues routinely rage and bombard attorneys with every conceivable question during oral arguments? In the two decades up to 2008, justices asked on average 133 questions. Thomas's ultra-conservative ideological court soul mate Antonin Scalia is the most verbose. He's peppered, badgered and hectored attorneys with more than a one-fifth of the questions asked from the high bench. All the while Thomas has sat silent, inscrutable, distant and even appeared bored.

Thomas has given several different reasons why he's kept his mouth shut. He claims that he does not see any need to speak up or out since it doesn't really serve to help him understand, clarify or amplify on a legal point in a case. This is ludicrous. Studies have shown that oral arguments are not just an exercise in verbal theater that serve no real purpose in helping judges make up their minds about cases. They are vital to gathering information, raising and clarifying crucial legal and policy issues and they help build consensus among the justices about opinions they will have to render in a case.

Oral arguments also are the key to lay down legal guidelines that help courts and judges in similar cases reach decisions in vital cases. Oral arguments are not trifle public relations exercises, but an intimate and necessary part of legal decision making. And judges no matter how versed on case law they are, or how firm they are in their opinion about a case, they take oral arguments seriously. That is all the judges do except Thomas.

This is no accident. Thomas is not the legal boob that his arch critics lambaste him as. That's their stock explanation for why he remains stone silent on the bench. Thomas has an unabashed and glaringly transparent agenda; a legal and political agenda that has been unshakable since his narrow, controversial and much reviled confirmation in 1991. And that's to encode his hard right, strict constructionist, states' rights bent to shape law and public policy.

He has waged relentless political and ideological war against civil rights, affirmative action, gay rights, abortion, prisoner rights, and a knee jerk defense of financial and corporate interests, gun ownership, broadening executive power on such issues as encroachment on civil liberties, and even upholding the government's right to engage in torture, the wild expansion of police power, and the strict upholding of the death penalty.

This doesn't require any prolonged give and take on his part with the legion of attorneys that parade before him during oral arguments. His opinions could be mailed in they are so reflexive and predictable. His opinions, briefs, and memos are virtual templates that only need to be changed to pencil in his decision on the specific case that the justices are ruling on at the moment. Thomas virtually confirmed that in cases where conservative principles are at stake he'll roll out his conservative template for his decision. He once told a fawning gathering of the ultra conservative Federalist Society, "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question."

Thomas's silence, pitiable or laughable depending on how charitable one wants to be, is not the worst of Thomas's offenses. His abominable decisions on any and all cases that involve civil rights and racial matters have been a colossal shameful mock of the proud civil rights tradition and legacy of the justice who Thomas replaced on the high court, Thurgood Marshall. Thomas's retrograde, roll-back-the clock opinions in these cases have earned him much deserved revulsion and attack from civil rights leaders and organizations.

Thomas has been their public enemy number one. It's a designation that Thomas has not only accepted but revels in. He has gone out of his way to thumb his nose at civil rights leaders and uphold some of the worst civil rights and civil liberties abuses even when that means on occasion breaking ranks with Scalia and casting the lone dissenting vote. This was blatantly evident in the infamous case involving a black inmate beaten senseless by jailers in a Louisiana prison. Thomas was the only one of the judges to agree with Scalia that the beating was not cruel and unusual punishment.

Silent Thomas is not a court deaf mute solely because he values listening over talking, or because he's a legal ignoramus. There's a method to his silence, and the method is to encode his retrograde court stamp on law and public policy. You don't need to ask any questions to accomplish that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on the Hutchinson Communications Network aired on radio stations broadcasting to sixty cities and Washington D.C. and streamed on Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter:


Black Buzz said...

Maybe Justice Thomas think's he smarter than everyone else. He didn't pay taxes on 700k in income. Is he in jail? His wife apparently has been working tax free for years. Maybe the nasty man is smarter than we think he is.

Black Buzz said...

I can't think of anything that Justice Thomas has ever done to distinguish himself intellectually or show any semblance of independence of thought since he's been on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thomas is an intellectual drop-out who ditto's whatever Scalia does.

Black Buzz said...

Are we really a nation of laws? When someone breaks the laws, we are supposed to apply a penalty.
In Clarence Thomas' case he appears to have lied under oath in the Congressional Hearing on his nomination for an Associate Justice to the United States Supreme Court, and gave false testimony to Congress. Those are impeachable offenses.

Black Buzz said...

Since when American public is sexual harassment a Christian value?
Did Justice Thomas give perjured testimony to Congress during his comfirmation Hearing for the Supreme Court?
The case against Justice Thomas is not about sexual harassment its about whether Justice Thomas lied under oath to the United States Congress which is a violation of Title 18 of the U.S. Code.

Black Buzz said...

The Impeachment Option was put in place by the founding fathers of the USA to protect against the sort of corruption that elevated Justice Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Justice Thomas apparently likes being a liar, and he also votes on the SP in such a manner to please his friends and to get back at his enemies.
Certaintly Justice Thomas is not the type of person we should want serving in the highest judicial position making decisions about the most important cases of the USA.

Black Buzz said...

It is highly unlikely that the present House Judiciary Committee will begin Impeachment proceedings against Justice Thomas, but there are at least four key witnesses that can corroborate Anita Hill's testimony.
So the true question is why did Senator Joe Biden stone-wall, and block the testimony of witnesses that could have corroborated Anita Hill testimony? Why has Joe Biden been given a free pass? Is Joe Biden also guilty of withholding testimony in the Confirmation Hearing for the position of Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court? Biden's actions in the instant case ( Thomas Confirmation Hearing) also appear to constitute an impeachable offense.
The venomous Republicans can't go after Biden without exposing the lying Justice Thomas. So it will be business as usual in the most corrupt city in the United States, Washington D.C.
The misguided fringe nuts in the Tea Party say this is the country they "Want Back."