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Clarence Thomas: The Misunderstood Justice. Seely N. Leyenberger Holy Family University.

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clarence thomas the misunderstood justice

Clarence Thomas:The Misunderstood Justice

Seely N. Leyenberger

Holy Family University

thesis

Despite the bitterness and misconceptions of his critics, Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas remains a principled adherent of original intent, content to remain at the periphery of the Court while facing constitutional questions such as abortion, the Commerce Clause, and affirmative action.

Thesis
legal issues

Establishment Clause

  • Presidential War Powers
  • Death Penalty
  • Abortion
  • Commerce Clause
  • Affirmative Action
Legal Issues
biography

Birth

  • June 23, 1948 Pinpoint, Georgia
  • Education
  • Immaculate Conception Seminary
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Yale Law School
  • Professional Experience
  • 1974 - Assistant to Missouri A.G. Danforth
  • 1979 - Aide to Senator Danforth
  • 1981 - Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education (Reagan)
  • 1982 - Director of the EEOC (Reagan)
  • 1990 - U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (G. H. W. Bush)
  • 1991- Supreme Court Associate Justice (G. H. W. Bush)
  • (Foskett, 2004; Merida and Fletcher, 2007;
  • Thomas, 2007; Toobin, 2007)
Biography
abortion

Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000)

  • Question: Does the Nebraska legislative ban on partial-birth abortion violate the Due Process rights of the Fourteenth Amendment?
  • Conclusion: Yes. (5-4); Author: Justice Breyer
    • Reaffirms Roe v. Wade, 314 F.Supp.1217(1973)
    • Nebraska statute violates the U.S. Constitution
      • Places an “undue burden” on a pregnant woman's reproductive rights
      • Statute does not provide for exceptions in cases of health concerns
Abortion
abortion1

Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000)

  • Thomas’ Dissenting Opinion
    • Denies stare decisis (Roe v. Wade, 314 F.Supp.1217 1973)
    • Abortion bears no affiliation with the Constitution
  • The Roberts Court re Abortion
    • Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007)
      • New conservative appointments (Stevens, Alito)
      • Thomas’ Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) opinion legitimized
Abortion
the commerce clause

U.S. v. Lopez 514 U.S. 549 (1995)

  • Question: Does the 1990 Gun-Free Zones Act, which forbids individuals from carrying a gun into a school zone, violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution?
  • Conclusion: Yes.(5-4); Author: Chief Justice Rehnquist
    • The federal government’s role in the arrest is illegal because the action does not impact interstate commerce and, therefore, the federal government can not intervene
The Commerce Clause
the commerce clause1

U.S. v. Lopez 514 U.S. 549 (1995)

  • Thomas’ Concurring Opinion
    • Agrees that gun possession in a school zone does not constitute a matter of interstate commerce
    • Contends federal intervention is a violation of the Tenth Amendment because the Act allows the federal government to perform policing powers.
  • U.S. v. Morrison,529 U.S. 598 (2000)
    • Violence Against Women Act (1994)
  • Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005)
    • Controlled Substance Act (1970)
The Commerce Clause
affirmative action

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)

  • Question: Does the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions program, under which applicants from certain minority groups are granted special considerations, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the 1964 Civil Rights Act of nonminority applicants?
  • Conclusion: No. (5-4); Author: Justice O’Connor
    • The Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit the university's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions
    • Admittance/Denial is not based on any single factor such as race
    • In 25 years (2028), the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further affirmative action
Affirmative Action
affirmative action1

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)

  • Thomas’ Dissenting Opinion
    • The Constitution does not allow for institutions of higher education to grant exemptions to favored races
    • Cites the detrimental impact of affirmative action policies:

“Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! … And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! … [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury.”

Frederick Douglass quoted in Thomas’ dissenting brief

Affirmative Action
affirmative action2

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)

  • The Roberts Court re Affirmative Action
    • Meredith v. Jefferson County Public Schools, 551 U.S. __(2007)
    • Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, 551 U.S. 701 (2007)
Affirmative Action
references

Supreme Court Case Law

  • Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007). Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/05-380.ZO.html.
  • Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007) (Thomas, C., concurring). Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/05-380.ZC.html.
  • Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005). Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZO.html.
  • Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005) (Thomas, C., dissenting). Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZD1.html.
  • Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003). Retrieved November 1, 2009 from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-241.ZO.html.
  • Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003) (Thomas, C., dissenting). Retrieved November 1, 2009 from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-241.ZX1.html.
  • Meredith v. Jefferson County Public Schools, 551 U.S. __(2007). Retrieved November 1, 2009 from http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2006/2006_05_915.
  • Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, 551 U.S. 701 (2007). Retrieved November 1, 2009 http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/05-908.ZO.html.
References
references1

Supreme Court Case Law

  • Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Governor Robert P. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/91-744.ZO.html.
  • Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978). Retrieved November 1, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0438_0265_ZO.html.
  • Roe v. Wade, 314 F.Supp. 1217 (1973). Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0410_0113_ZO.html.
  • Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000). Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-830.ZO.html.
  • Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000) (Thomas, C., dissenting). Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-830.ZD3.html.
  • U.S. v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995). Retrieved November 1, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-1260.ZO.html.
  • U.S. v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995) (Thomas, C., concurring). Retrieved November 1, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-1260.ZC1.html.
  • U.S. v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598(2000). Retrieved November 1, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-5.ZO.html.
  • U.S. v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000) (Thomas, C., concurring). Retrieved November 1, 2009, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-5.ZC.html.
References
references2

Foskett, K. (2004). Judging Thomas: The life and times of Clarence Thomas. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

  • Leyenberger, S. (2010). Clarence Thomas: The misunderstood justice. Unpublished paper, Holy Family University.
  • Mason, A. T., and Stephenson, Jr., D. G. American Constitutional Law: American constitutional law. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Inc.
  • Merida, Kevin, and Fletcher, Michael A. (2007). Supreme discomfort: The divided soul of Clarence Thomas. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
  • Thomas, Clarence (2007). My grandfather’s son: A memoir. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
  • Toobin, Jeffrey (2007). The nine: Inside the secret world of the Supreme Court. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
References