- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

Critics still are doubting Justice Clarence Thomas a decade after the brutal confirmation battle that began 10 years ago tomorrow, but now they debate his court judgments more often than his psyche, and his press clippings usually are keepers.
Assessments in newspapers, two upcoming books, countless Internet commentaries and occasional law-school seminars cite such personal milestones as his return to the Roman Catholic Church and Mass every morning on Capitol Hill, the emotion of adopting grandnephew Mark Martin, now 9, his romance with a flashy black Corvette, and the deluxe bus recreational vehicle he bought in Phoenix and drove back to Washington.
It's a far cry for the man depicted on the cover of Emerge magazine in 1993 as a "handkerchief head" and in 1996 as a lawn jockey — the former head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals who was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote at 6:03 p.m. on Oct. 15, 1991.
Justice Thomas — now 53 and the high court's youngest member by eight years — concedes he may never find a way to satisfy those who reject him simply because he is not Thurgood Marshall.
Since joining the court, Justice Thomas has written 85 of the 855 opinions that govern lower courts and 63 dissents. He voted in the majority 692 times (81 percent) and abstained once.
Although often described as marginalized from the legal mainstream, Justice Thomas finds himself in the minority more rarely than Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer or the champion nay-sayer — John Paul Stevens, who voted no 221 times, while Justice Thomas was on the short end in 162 cases.
The Los Angeles Times' Supreme Court correspondent, David G. Savage, calls him "a hero to a young generation of conservatives," who revere him for his legal opinions and because liberals hate him so much.
"[He] is emerging as an honored legal star of the new Bush administration," Mr. Savage wrote.
Anne Gearan of the Associated Press calls him "friendly, even jovial [and] content to state his individual views, even when he cannot persuade anyone else to join him."
Miss Gearan reports that Justice Thomas anticipates the chance this fall to vote again against affirmative action, which he famously disparages as "an insult to the values of hard work and self-reliance."
Many other writers marking Justice Thomas' upcoming Oct. 23 anniversary on the high court discover a skill at which insiders long marveled his ability to win over any audience from skeptical law students in chambers to seasoned lawyers who criticize his jurisprudence.
In the most prominent article yet, Tony Mauro of American Lawyer magazine portrays Justice Thomas in a cover story as a thoughtful jurist who gets "grudging respect from some quarters."
"Some think I was too kind to Justice Thomas, some think I was too tough on him. When you write about Clarence Thomas, he's such a polarizing person, you're always going to get negative reaction," said Mr. Mauro, who led with a touching anecdote about the justice's shedding tears during a Law Day speech as he recalled Mark's adoption.
"I think it certainly was dramatic and a good way of telegraphing or introducing the point that he can be very emotional, that he bares his soul yet some people think he's heartless in his jurisprudence," Mr. Mauro said of the Law Day speech he witnessed in Savannah, Ga., near the justice's boyhood home at Pinpoint.
Ken Foskett's three-part, 18,000-word series in the Atlanta Constitution and Journal "putting a human face on this man" spurred a huge reaction, a full page of letters and reprints in Orlando and Dayton, Ohio.
"I harbor a lot of resentment toward your industry," Justice Thomas told Mr. Foskett, who spent almost five months on the task. The reporter says he had five brief talks with his quarry but generally kept their substance to himself.
Mr. Foskett says he asked Justice Antonin Scalia about the frequent slur that Justice Thomas is a mere echo. He didn't use the exchange in print but says Justice Scalia responded: "It's ridiculous."
The upcoming books, both claiming to be the first definitive biography, are "Clarence Thomas: A Biography" by Andrew Peyton Thomas (Encounter Books, San Francisco), due Oct. 1, and "Silent Justice: The Clarence Thomas Story" by John Greenya (Barricade Books, Fort Lee, N.J.), scheduled for Oct. 15, the confirmation vote anniversary.
The text of both is embargoed, but publishers told The Washington Times this week:
"Clarence Thomas: A Biography," by a veteran of both the NAACP and the Heritage Foundation, says Justice Thomas discussed Roe vs. Wade with William Bradford Reynolds, an assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams and Michael Boicourt,assistant attorney general in Missouri, before his confirmation hearing, and it calls his denial to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he "debated the contents" of the decision with anybody "highly disingenuous" but not perjury.
"Silent Justice" will show how Justice Thomas' "struggle to be as good as white" cut him adrift from the civil rights movement, and it connects "the dots of Thomas' life with the social, political and legal impact he has had on this country."
Despite the negative tone of both book blurbs, Justice Thomas is enjoying a new acceptance. It seems enhanced somewhat by law professor Anita Hill's refusal to comment further about her role in the abortive effort to derail his nomination and by the muddied waters from author David Brock's admission he lied in a book about the Senate fight that began 10 years ago today and lasted until Oct. 15, 1991.
The scars seem to be healing from that hearing, which Justice Thomas characterized in 1991 as a "high-tech lynching," although he still calls it worse than anything the Ku Klux Klan might have inflicted.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide