In his new memoir My Grandfather’s Son, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pointedly ends his narrative when he begins sitting on the Supreme Court in 1991. But in some of the interviews he’s done in connection with the book launch, Thomas has made some interesting comments that go beyond the time frame of his book
On her blog Legalities today, ABC News reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg reports on some of those observations as she continues her online series about her seven hours of interviews with Thomas over recent weeks. More will come later, but among the morsels so far:
-- Thomas says he has more respect for precedent than his colleague Justice Antonin Scalia once gave him credit for. Thomas “doesn’t believe in stare decisis, period,” Scalia told an early Thomas biogapher. “If a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say, ‘let’s get it right.’” Thomas says overturning precedent is something he urges only after careful deliberation. “The last decision in the line is like a caboose on a train. Let’s go from the caboose all the way up to the engine, and see what really went on, and let’s think it all through,” he told Greenburg. “You might get up to the caboose and find out: Oh, there’s nobody in the engine... What happened? Where did we go wrong? Maybe we’re headed in the wrong direction. Let’s think it through.’”
-- Though Thomas was cast as the irreconcilable opposite of his predecessor Thurgood Marshall, Thomas said he had long conversations with Marshall after joining the court, in which Marshall urged him to go his own way. “His attitude was that it was up to me to do in my time what I have to do—as he did in his time what he had to do. Those were his words to me.”
-- Thomas spoke repeatedly of his admiration for the late Justice Byron White, calling him a model of judicial humility. “He did his job honestly. He didn’t worry about what was reported about it. He didn’t have an agenda.” Thomas also recalled the words of advice White gave him when he arrived at the court after tumultuous confirmation hearings. ‘It doesn’t matter how you got here. What matters now is what you do here,” Thomas recalled.