Monday, October 01, 2007

So Much for Judicial Temperament

You had to know that Uncle Thomas was waiting for the day when he could finally tell a version of his story of the Anita Hill fiasco where he wasn't under oath and wasn't under the scrutiny of the media watching his every move, facial tic and breath to make sure that he was telling the truth.

Well, today's the day.

And, neither being under oath nor able to be compelled to be put under oath, what a tale Justice Clarence apparently tells.  According to him, not only was Anita Hill a terrible lawyer and incompetent, but anyone who agreed with her was a terrible EEOC employee too.  We expected that.  Here's the unexpected part:  according to Justice Thomas, Anita Hill's accusation that he was a porno freak and harasser was ludicrous and Uncle Thomas was "one of the least likely candidates imaginable" for the charge of sexual harassment because....wait for it.....he'd purportedly made clear a desire to run an agency staffed mainly by minorities and women.

This is the type of astute logical reasoning that has made reading Supreme Court decisions penned by Clarence Thomas especially painful for lawyers the past 15 years.  If anyone can explain why insisting on a diverse work environment (assuming that this is his true feelings) means that a person can't be a stank ho getting off on porn and chasing skirts at the same time, I'll buy you a cookie.

(It will have to await another diary my discussion of what appears to be Justice Thomas trying to again "put his Black on," since this "I'm for advancement of the historically oppressed" narrative of his is now the second recent reference I'm aware of -- the first being his lengthy diatribe in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District #1 in which he partially garbs himself in his long-discarded Black Nationalist past and tries to evoke the ghost of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall as justification to eviscerate Brown v. Board of Education with a backhanded argument that, basically, Black people can't trust white people to ensure our equality, so we should stop trying to demand that the law ensure it - no, I'm not joking go read it yourself!).
Set aside the Anita Hill story, since 16 years later none of us are going to change our minds about it based on anything written this late in the game (I believed her then, and believed her now; David Brock's memoir admitting that Anita Hill was demonized and viciously attacked solely for the purpose of advancing Republican aspirations of putting a Black face on conservativism on the high court was merely icing on the cake for me.)  Isn't the real issue, for those of us who despite all its flaws respect and value the rule of law that a sitting judge has no business making public statements of a political nature or making intemperate statements about individuals? I thought - but maybe I'm wrong - that this type of behavior was antithetical to the idea of "judicial temperament", i.e. cool and dispassionate perspective remaining above the fray in the interests of justice.

I'm sorry, but I don't consider publishing an attack on a former employee while still sitting on the bench of the highest court in the land to be "above the fray."  I consider it -- 16 years after the fact -- yet another piece of evidence of the bitterness and anger that others have reported possesses and obsesses Justice Clarence Thomas to his soul.  It's just another piece of evidence that he can't just let go and move on, even having won the battle to be confirmed (even if his elevation to the Supreme Court is one of the low points of American racial history, part of the Bush Sr./Reagan strategy of using self-hating Negroes as the mouthpieces to reverse the civil rights legacy furthered by Justice Thurgood Marshall.)  What is surprising is that despite having emerged utterly victorious in his fight to be elevated to the Supreme Court, the reputation of what all agreed was a good lawyer trashed in the process, Justice Thomas is now 16 years later carrying around what I like to refer to as an "OJ" grudge:  a soul-eating, soul-destroying rage that belies all balance and passage of time, a rage that has no rational relationship to the alleged "harm" that was caused.  As was written in the Washington Post a few years ago, when it comes to his confirmation, Justice Thomas is a man with a long, long, vengeance memory:

Thomas retains a special animus for certain civil rights activists and liberal interest groups such as People for the American Way, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Alliance for Justice. He blames them, in large part, for the damage done to his reputation. "These people are mad because I'm in Thurgood Marshall's seat," he told one visitor.

A Thomas friend who talks frequently with the justice said Thomas keeps a list in his head of who was for and against him during his confirmation hearings. "It hurt him a lot, I'll tell you," said this friend, who would speak only if not named to preserve his relationship. "And he's still bitter."

OK that's some scary shit, that a man on the highest court in the land still carries in his heart an "enemies list" from 13 years earlier.  Are we going to make him recuse himself if and when these individuals and groups come before the High Court, as we would with any lower court judge? I've seen no evidence that this has ever happened, with Justice Thomas.  We couldn't even get Scalia recused when the bias issues were far more patent.

Sure, some will call Justice Thomas' new book what he calls it - just his "memoir" or "autobiography", necessarily setting forth his views on a variety of subjects as part of talking about his life.  And, yes, everyone expected it to be written at some point; getting to sell a book is sort of one of the perks of the job, as it is with all high-powered jobs (I'm reading Alan Greenspan's at the moment.)  But at the moment I'm racking my brain to remember any judge who did so while he was still on the bench deciding cases.  What is it about Clarence Thomas' situation that his renewed attack on Anita Hill -- his version of it, anyway -- had to be told now?

(Is he going to retire? Lord, I don't think I can afford to hope that much.)