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Clarence Thomas and the Tea Party

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by WaylonJennings, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. So the story is that Thomas's wife is essentially a raging Tea Partier, with affiliations and comments about "liberal Washington" and "tyranny" and everything that goes with it.

    I guess I don't have much of an issue with it, mostly because I'm fairly progressive and think that a woman and a man should be able to live separate professional lives and have independent identities even when married. And Thomas has never struck me as a Tea Party type as much as he is a waaaaaaay out there originalist who would overturn just about every piece of legislation Congress has ever passed.

    Curious what others think.

  2. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    My only concern about a Supreme's spouse being involved in such a thing is the potential for conflicts of interest, and if I recall correctly -- quick googling is not confirming my memory -- Thomas has had some minor issues with conflicts in the past. I remember reading something about his oldest son's employer ending up in front of the court.
  3. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    My goodness, is that piece poorly written. I don't even care what Ginni Thomas thinks if I have to slog through that painful writing.
  4. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Thomas' wife was a Republican Congressional aide, and has had a couple of jobs with conservative groups. Gore tried to get Thomas and Scalia (Scalia's son worked for the law firm that represented George Bush) to recuse themselves when the Florida voting thing came up before the court in 2000.

    There are always things that could be represented as conflicts of interest with the court. Every time one of them publishes a book or a memoir, for example, they accept millions of dollars from a publisher -- some, like Harper Collins, owned by Rupert Murdoch, who has been before the court a few times. Should they have to recuse themselves from any first amendment case?

    I don't see how a wife or a child's lives can be turned into conflicts of interests. They have to be free to be who they want. And the issue of Supreme Court justices themselves being politically active, or even supporting candidates has never been an issue -- go back to John Marshall, who was politically active and the justices who followed him, who often supported presidential candidates, and it was never an issue.

    The fact that anyone worries about that now shows the harm the courts since Earl Warren have done in turning the judiciary, which should be narrow in scope, into a politicized de facto legislative branch. If they stick mostly to things within the scope of the Constitution and don't try to be the arbiter of social issues -- things that one group of 9 people might rule one way on, and a different group of 9 people with contrary social or political ideals might undo -- the idea of a conflict of interest because of their political affiliation shouldn't be an issue. If the judiciary is what it is supposed to be, political agendas shouldn't be able to infiltrate rulings. For more than 150 years, prior to the 1950s and 1960s, whenever the court abandoned the Constitution and allowed political agendas to taint rulings -- for example, Dred Scott -- it created a massive shitstorm that brought the focus back around to the narrow constraints of the Constitution. The justices politics shouldn't matter if they are being judicial.
  5. Similar interesting family conflict of interest debate in the NYT lately about their Jerusalem bureau reporter having a son in the Israeli army.

    I just don't know how responsible people should be for their family members' independent actions.

    Ragu, I'm curious about which recent line of cases you felt were politically motivated, i.e. de facto legislation. The big example is always Rehnquist tinkering with the commerce clause and trying to reign in what it had become, but I thought that was mostly fair.
  6. cortez

    cortez Member

    I feel sorry for Clarence Thomas
  7. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    I thought Thomas was married to Scalia.
  8. Perhaps most common Supreme Court verbiage ever: "JUSTICE SCALIA DISSENTING, JUSTICE THOMAS CONCURRING in the DISSENT."
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    As to the matter, my wife would not even put up a candidate's yard sign because it would cause people to think the paper endorsed one side or the other.

    So, I think she should give up some of her first amendment rights, actually, if her husband is on the Supreme Court.
  10. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Waylon, few ruling since the Warren court haven't been decided by politics and then rationalized with bullshit mumbo jumbo that dances around the Constitution and has little judicial soundness to it. This isn't about the current court, which is a product of the barn door having been left open decades ago. It's about a turn the court took in the 1960s and 1970s in which it expanded its powers slowly and our legislature and executive allowed them to do it without a check, because they saw opportunity to control the court with politicized appointees who now create public policy (including the most controversial issues that legislators fear getting mixed up in) from the bench and do it without the accountability that elected officials don't want to have to deal with because they have to face reelections and a fickle electorate.

    I'm not suggesting that the court has never been politicized. But it could never have gotten away with the blatant activism that it exists to pursue now. For 150 + years, 90 percent of what the court did was hear cases that touched on financial interests (broad right of liberty & property, which was why the country was formed in the first place). Another 5 to 10 percent addressed the most basic rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, such as obvious first amendment issues. If it wasn't obviously framed by the Constitution, though, they knew better than to stick their nose in it, and the few times they did -- the example I gave in the other post was Dred Scott -- it destroyed the credibility of the court for years, to the point where it had to regroup and take a step backward.

    For the last several decades, the court has turned into a place where private advocacy groups come to pursue their political and social agendas through litigation. It has created a mess. Take any landmark ruling since the 1960s on a social issue, such as the big ones, like Roe v. Wade. Legislative control abortion is not addressed by the Constitution. It had no place in a court room. It's a legislative issue. A dicey one, but that is why we elect representatives: to represent the will of the people, even on the things we are really divided about. Prior to Roe, the court had spent the previous 20 years usurping the power of the legislature, through rulings that had no Constitutional basis. First, they played loose with the amendments to ascribe what they wanted to them. They got away with it, because our elected officials realized the court could do dirty work on things the legislature and executive found politically difficult -- civil rights issues, things related to sexuality, etc. The court could deal with that without the backlash, because they are appointed for life. It only took the court so far, though. When they couldn't handle the more expansive social issues they tried to tackle with any amount of believability, because the social issues they attacked were so far removed from any rights guaranteed in the Constitution, they pretty blatantly tossed the Constitution aside and starting making things up. They told everyone to screw off and flexed their muscles -- they can do whatever they want. That is how we get silly things like a "right to privacy," which is not in the Constitution, and even if it was, is so vague and expansive that it could be applied by anyone slick enough to cover anything you want to magically turn into a right.

    What happens now is that because decisions like that come down to the social and political beliefs on the justices -- it has nothing to do with the actual Constitution, just the goals of the people litigating it and the justices who favor one side of a social issue or another -- what matters is the social and political orientation of the justices. Find 5 justices who are OK with abortion, and Roe v. Wade stands. And the politics of justices is an issue for voters, when it shouldn't be if it is the judiciary described in Article III of the Constitution. The idea of voting for a president because of his all-powerful ability to appoint someone for life with a political belief system that will influence public policy for a long time, was never imagined by anyone until it became the reality 50 years ago, or so (but really, this all had its roots in Roosevelt trying to claim broad powers and the court not allowing him to, and him trying to pack the court to get around it). Now, if the presidency changes to someone who gets a chance to appoint a couple of justices who will overturn a lot of those newer rulings because their beliefs and social agenda is different, then abortion (and dozens of other social issues) suddenly becomes unconstitutional somehow.

    Nothing in the Constitution changed, though. And abortion was never addressed by the Constitution in the first place. They ignored the Constitution when they ruled and essentially pursued their own social agendas. The only thing that changed were the activist ideals of the justices. Which makes them de facto legislators -- more powerful than our actual legislators, because no one can overturn what they do (unless a president can change the makeup of the court based and a new court can undo what was previously done) and they are nine people, unelected, appointed for life and now given the power to legislate -- a direction that should have never been allowed, but now is too late.

    The Supreme Court didn't exist that way for more than 150 years. It has been that way since roughly Early Warren. And as they expanded their powers and our elected officials saw that they could control policy by using the courts and interest groups saw that litigation creates more solid law than soliciting Congressmen and Senators, they had no one stopping them. That emboldened them to get more and more bold in how blatantly they were willing to abandon the Constitution and just act as a politicized institution.

    Where we are now isn't a good thing in my opinion. We have a second, more powerful legislature that isn't elected and represents the whims of 9 political appointees who serve for life. And we really have no independent judiciary to play the role laid out in Article III of the Constitution.

    For anyone who loves the agenda that the Warren and Burger courts pursued, because their social goals are in line with what those courts did, I'd still suggest that you created a monster. The same way that those appointees did a lot of things you like, what happens now if future presidents succeed in packing the court with appointees whose activist goals you don't like? You were OK with those courts trashing the Constitution to essentially foist judicially-created legislation on the country in a way you wanted. By opening that barn door, now you forfeit the right to complain when the "other side" gains footing in the courts and undoes those things and starts legislating from the bench in ways you don't care for.
  11. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    You're new around here, aren't you? :)
  12. Ragu how would you have decided Brown v. Board of Education?

    This isn't a trap and I don't have an easy answer. But I think that case more than any other shows what a rabbit hole this whole issue can become. By all rights, the Court should have upheld segregation, right? Plessy v. Ferguson was still good law. The 14th Amendment had not intended to include public schools, which were barely a blip on the national radar at the time of its passage, and certainly was not supposed to ban segregation in public schools. Equal protection would have been beaten soundly had it been made clear that it would apply to cases like Brown. This was a classic case of a job for Congress and/or state legislatures, not the Supreme Court.

    And, yet, we all know it was the right decision. Even Scalia says it was the right decision. But why?
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