Monday, April 15, 2024

Who’s in charge of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas?

April 18, 2023 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( Clarence Thomas is an unconquered American.

He refused to let the segregation and poverty into which he was born define his life. He wouldn’t let racists impose limits on him.

He also wouldn’t let leftists claim ownership of his mind or allegiance simply because they opposed segregation. They were enemies of freedom, too, only from another direction.

Liberals have never forgiven him for refusing their patronage and their leash.

They knew they could not count on him to support their view of abortion rights when George H.W. Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1991.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

So they tried to stop his confirmation at any cost, using sexual allegations against him when questions about abortion failed to derail his nomination.

Law was the segregationist’s weapon. The media is the left’s. Character assassination is a nonviolent way of keeping the defiant in line.

That’s what “cancel culture” is about, and it works – but not on Clarence Thomas, and not just because he’s brave enough to withstand the pressure.

Even the bravest man can be crushed by superior power. We’ve seen it time and again in the universities, corporate America and the media.

If the institution that pays your salary is not as brave as you are, your enemies can destroy you by intimidating your superiors.

But a Supreme Court justice has no superiors. No one is in a position to tell Clarence Thomas what to do.

He doesn’t work for Congress and is not answerable to any regulatory agency.

That’s by design: If Congress or any other organ of the federal government could set rules for justices and punish them for failure to obey, the judiciary would not be independent.

The latest press campaign against Thomas accuses him of failing to disclose gifts from and financial deals with his billionaire friend Harlan Crow, as well as mixing up the names of companies he owns in other financial statements.

What the indignant hype leaves out, however, is that Thomas’ compliance with any disclosure rules is purely voluntary. A law that cannot be enforced is at best a suggestion.

This manufactured scandal is an opportunity to dispel a liberal myth and impart a lesson about where sovereignty lies in our nation.

The myth is that there is some abstract thing called the federal government that stands above each of its individual branches. Just as individuals have to obey the rules made by regulators and laws passed by Congress, presidents and Supreme Court justices are also answerable to impartial administrators. Thus, Thomas must follow federal guidelines about financial disclosures.

But the fact is that Supreme Court justices and the president are literally above the law, in the sense that federal law is something that descends from Congress.

The power of law lies in the penalties that can be imposed on those who violate it. The Constitution allows for only one kind of penalty for the president and Supreme Court justices in their official capacity, and that’s impeachment.

Impeachment, as we were reminded twice over during the Trump years, is a political process, not an impartial legal one.

The choice of whether and over what to impeach is political, as is the decision to convict or not. Impeachment of a Supreme Court justice would be every bit as subject to partisanship as the four presidential impeachments in our history – of Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump two times – have been.

Lawmakers wield enormous power over the lower federal courts and executive branch officers under the president. And presidents become private citizens again subject to every obligation imposed by Congress once they leave office.

Supreme Court justices, on the other hand, serve until they resign or die, unless someday one gets impeached and removed.

That day will not come any faster because liberals who have hated Clarence Thomas all along find fault with his paperwork. Justice Thomas is immune to their demands as long as they fail to win the seats they need in the legislative branch to impeach him.

The Constitution recognizes that the rules in a free country ultimately depend on the people and their will – their votes – not on an elite’s idea of impersonal law.

The Supreme Court, like the president, is not a creature of Congress or the agencies it sets up, and the check that the legislature does wield over the judiciary and the executive, impeachment, is itself checked by the people through elections.

Yet liberals know that controlling public perception is the way to direct public opinion. That’s why an ideological monopoly on the media is so important – why Fox News has to be smashed and right-ish views of any kind have to be labeled hate or disinformation.

Clarence Thomas answers to no one except, ultimately, the political force of the people. The question is whether the people finally answer to the media or whether they judge for themselves and have the independence of mind that Justice Thomas exemplifies.

Columnist; Daniel McCarthy

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