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Clarence Thomas Remembers

Clarence Thomas book.jpgJustice Clarence Thomas’ self-effacing memoir takes him from his origins in Pinpoint, Georgia to his confirmation for a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. He denies even the slightest banter with Anita Hill, whom he describes as duplicitously evolving from an abrasive and ambitious colleague to a put-upon, falsely innocent victim in order to derail his nomination.

The 2007 book is particularly noteworthy for Thomas’ views on affirmative action as they will impact upcoming deliberations on the progeny of the Fisher case. In that decision, the Court raised the level of judicial scrutiny that diversity programs must meet in order to pass constitutional muster. Future cases will require a fully worked up set of facts to show that affirmative action programs employing race actually achieve their aims; the courts will no longer defer to assertions of effectiveness by colleges and universities. In the book, Thomas repeatedly observes instances of students of color being admitted to schools that are far too demanding of them given their level of preparation, and how such programs ill-serve both students and historically black institutions, where students of lesser preparation are far more likely to meet their goals, especially in STEM fields.

Thomas Mismatch.jpg

Longtime readers of this space will note that Thomas’ views, born of his lived experience, pre-date the publication of Mismatch, Stuart Taylor and Richard Saunders’ 2012 work that summarizes the research into the negative effects of preferential admissions programs for minorities and other groups. Mismatch points out that the initial observation of the phenomenon, and the first rigorous social science analysis of it, took place at the College in the work of Psychology and Brain Sciences Professor Rogers Elliot.

Addendum: My best source in the legal world, a former Supreme Court clerk with decidedly left-of-center political leanings, opines that Thomas has been a fine justice. He pointedly comments that anyone disparaging Thomas’ legal skills either knows nothing about the law or is motivated by political or racial animus.

Addendum: Another rap on Thomas is that he votes in lockstep with Justice Antonin Scalia. “Non è vero!”, as feisty Scalia might exclaim. In fact, the liberal justices tend to stick together more frequently than Scalia and Thomas, even in 5-4 cases, as SCOTUSblog’s stats show:

Thomas Scalia.jpg

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