“It’s Been 10 Years. Would Clarence Thomas Like to Add Anything?” is a New York Times article from February 1. The 1000+ comments are interesting due to the confidence with which NYT denounce the Supreme Court judge as incompetent and/or stupid. Clarence Thomas also comes in for criticism from readers who believe that he lets his clerks do the hard work while he skates.
As it happens, my life as an expert witness brought me into contact with one of Thomas’s former clerks. This attorney was tops in his class at a first-ranked law school and is now one of the top patent litigators in the United States (i.e., he leads cases where fees on both sides may exceed $30 million and hundreds of millions of dollars may be at stake). His portrayal of Thomas was more or less the opposite of the readers’ comments. Thomas was brilliant, funny, collegial, and a good manager of the clerks. Thomas did most of the legal analysis and relied on the clerks to fill in details. In other words, at least according to one expert who had an entire year to see what was going on, Thomas excelled at the portion of the job where the law is actually made (though of course the other justices don’t necessarily agree with him).
Why would Times readers assume that, simply because Thomas disagrees with them regarding the interpretation of the Constitution, Thomas is therefore stupid, lazy, and incompetent?
- my review of a book on Supreme Court cases, which mentions Thomas
- remarks regarding Thomas-the-jurist from a federal appeals court judge (“too often … disparaged by people who have known little or nothing” and “one of the great jurists of his generation”)