Jeff Neal for C.U.R.E. - Certain Unalienable Rights Endowment

Clarence Thomas recused from his LIFE

In Health Care Reform, Opinion on February 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm

There is a move afoot to pressure Supreme Court Justice Thomas into recusing himself from hearing a case involving the health care law.  There is an apparent conflict of interest, because he has been seen in the presence of people who oppose the law, and his wife makes a living as an advocate for political views that are consistent with those held by people who oppose the law.  The highest standards demand that even the appearance of a conflict of interest requires recusal.  Guitly! I say.  Off with their heads.  OR, maybe we might take a minute to look at the facts from a different point of view.

President Obama’s first nominee to the high court, Sonia Sotomayor, was widely praised for her life experiences.  Indeed, her life experiences – primarily as a woman of hispanic origin – was, in some circles, more than a biographical datum.  It was not a small part of her qualification for office.  Her life experiences, we were told, shaped her views and made an impression on her thinking and her decision-making as a judge.  Her unique perspective was a praiseworthy addition, a valuable and substantive trait, that should be taken into account when determining her fitness to serve on the court.

OK.  To each his own.

Now, let’s think about Justice Thomas.  His life experiences include mingling with men and women who have opinions, some of them about matters involving the law and politics.  Some of those people agree with him, some must disagree and others are agnostic.  He has a life that involves thinking about things big and small.  He also has a wife who is active in public policy matters.  All of those things shape his views and make an impression on his thinking and his decision-making.

On the one hand, one’s life experiences make one uniquely qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.  On the other, one’s life experiences disqualify one from the Court.

Mr. Justice Thomas, it seems you have two options: either recuse yourself from cases that involve thinking about matters that affect anyone in your life who has an intellectually active life, or, well, recuse yourself from your life.  Your choice.

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