Sunday, October 9, 2022

John Roberts is the Chief. But it’s Clarence Thomas’s Court; Clarence Thomas Takes the Wheel as Supreme Court Settles in for Post-Roe Term

Art Lien
John Roberts is the chief. But it’s Clarence Thomas’s court:
When the Supreme Court returns to the bench on Monday for its first oral arguments of the new term, Justice Clarence Thomas almost certainly will ask the first question.
Thomas, who was appointed in 1991, is the court’s longest-serving justice and was for many years its most taciturn member. He famously went a decade without asking a single question. But when the court tweaked its argument format during the pandemic, Thomas began speaking up. He now interrogates the lawyers during nearly every case, often marking the terrain on which the case will be fought.
The other justices have even agreed to defer to Thomas at the start of each argument before jumping in themselves. The rationale is that Thomas, a stickler for politeness, dislikes interrupting the advocates or his colleagues. But it’s hard not to view the arrangement as symbolic of Thomas’s remarkable ascendance. Long considered an outlier on the court’s right flank, Thomas is now the intellectual leader of a conservative transformation that the six Republican-appointed justices are ushering into American law.
Few would have predicted it. Perhaps not even Thomas himself. In his second term, he boasted that he was “proudly and unapologetically irrelevant and anachronistic.” Back then, his commitment to originalism — the idea that the Constitution’s language should be interpreted solely according to how the words were understood when they were written — made him an ideological oddity, even among many conservatives. And his no-compromises approach alienated moderates like former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. --->READ MORE HERE
AP Photo/John Amis, File
Clarence Thomas takes the wheel as Supreme Court settles in for post-Roe term:
Justice Clarence Thomas has been on the Supreme Court for more than three decades, and his judicial philosophy rooted in the original meaning of the Constitution is finally controlling big rulings.
Yet he is cranking out opinions just like he did while in the legal desert of the liberal “living Constitution” era.
“He’s always been one to kind of identify problems that maybe the court hasn’t grappled with or issues that need to be brought up,” said Carrie Severino, who clerked for the justice 15 years ago. “It’s taken decades. He’s been on the court over 30 years now, but the court has ultimately been like, ‘Oh, yeah, that is an issue we need to look at.’”
The difference between then and now, she said, is “you now see a majority of justices joining him.”
Justice Thomas will take the bench Monday for the start of the 2022-2023 term after his most influential year yet. He led colleagues in forcefully asserting Second Amendment gun rights and First Amendment religious free exercise rights and, of course, defenestrating Roe v. Wade.
That 1973 decision was the guiding star of liberal legal scholarship for decades but succumbed last year to Justice Thomas’ brand of originalism. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote the chief opinion, saying it was time to reverse years of wrong legal reasoning that had led to and flowed from Roe.
Justice Thomas joined the ruling but wrote a concurring opinion to advise his colleagues that their job was not finished. He said the same “substantive due process” right that Roe applied to establish a national right to abortion was the basis for other decisions, such as federal constitutional guarantees of access to contraception and same-sex marriage.
Ms. Severino said that’s typical of Justice Thomas.
She said he likens the court’s use of precedent to engineers adding cars to a train. --->READ MORE HERE
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