Sunday, December 05, 2004

Reid on Thomas

Senator Harry Reid had this to say earlier today:
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday had harsh words for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

When asked to comment on Thomas as a possible replacement for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Reid told NBC's 'Meet the Press': 'I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.

'I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.'
I don't think that anyone who actually reads Supreme Court opinions would say that Thomas's opinions are poorly written. Many people disagree with some of his opinions on political or constitutional grounds, but that is a far different thing from saying that Thomas isn't even competent at writing.

Reid's comment reminded me of a prior post in which I quoted what Mark Tushnet, one of the nation's preeminent scholars of constitutional law, once said by email to me. The subject was how Tushnet plans to discuss Thomas's jurisprudence in a forthcoming book:
Incidentally, I'm going to begin the material on Thomas that I'm about to write with something like this: It's nearly impossible to find anyone who is dispassionate about Justice Thomas. The legacy of his bitter confirmation hearings remains strong. But, taking his work on the Supreme Court on its own terms, I think that what he has had to say about the Constitution is certainly more interesting than Justice Scalia's work and probably is more likely to make a permanent contribution to constitutional law -- if Thomas can suppress his occasional impulses to imitate Scalia's "take no prisoners" style and instead continues to write with the restraint that is more typical of Thomas opinions.
UPDATE: Ann Althouse from Univ. of Wisconsin Law School adds her thoughts on Reid's comments:
Is that the tack the Democrats are going to take if Scalia or Thomas is nominated to succeed Chief Justice Rehnquist? Scalia has an ethics problem, and Thomas is an "embarrassment"? Roundly acknowledge that Scalia is brilliant, but slur Thomas as someone who can't even put his written opinions together?? It is my observation that liberals tend to lapse into the lazy belief that those who don't agree with them must be stupid or evil, and to me Reid's remarks look a bit like that. But I realize the Senators can't get away with opposing a judicial nomination on the ground that they simply disagree with their opinions. They've got to say the person either has an ethical problem or isn't smart enought. I'm prepared to put up with the Democrats hashing through the duck hunting controversy if Scalia is nominated, but to attack Thomas's intelligence is shameless.
2d UPDATE: Note the contrast to Joshua Micah Marshall, who without any evidence or reason says that Thomas is "mediocre." Like Reid, Marshall seems unlikely to have read many, if any, of Thomas's opinions. In fact, I'd bet that Marshall and Reid wouldn't even be able to understand many of Thomas's opinions, as he often writes in highly technical areas such as ERISA or corporate tax. Consider this opinion, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this dissent.

3d UPDATE: By the way, see this post above for two previously unpublished letters by Senator Cornyn regarding judicial filibusters.


Blogger A Red Mind in a Blue State said...

The atttack on Thomas' intelligence is shameless-- and is rascist as well. It is the continuation of the "high-tech lynching" he suffered during the confirmation hearing. Can you imagine the epithets thrown at conservative commentators if Thomas was a Democrat and was attacked for "lack of intelligence"?

2:00 PM  
Blogger MikeZ said...

The liberals' attacks on Rice - and now Thomas - seem to confirm the opinion that the liberals are all for African-Americans - as long as they are kept at the bottom levels of society (where, presumably, they will keep voting for Democratic handout programs).

The parallel with the Arab's view of Palestinians is compelling. (Without the "Palestinian problem" to focus their destructive energies on, the Arabs would have to face their own shortcomings.)

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