Clarence Thomas Still in the Running

Congress’ handling of Janice Brown may decide Thomas’ fate

Reports are continuing to circulate that White House lawyers are interviewing Associate Justice Clarence Thomas as a possible nominee to succeed Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Although chief justice Rehnquist has managed to stay clear of the hospital since President Bush’s inauguration in January, his retirement is not a matter of if, but when.

Is Thomas next in line? Many African-American conservatives think so, but not without reservation. One in particular, believes that California’s conservative and African-American supreme court justice Janice R. Brown will be the determining factor.

“What congress decides to do with the nomination of Janice Brown will be a predictor of what they will do with Clarence Thomas,” said Lamont Sanders, a political analyst for a Black conservative think tank in Washington D.C. “Evenso, Bush has had surprising success with his recent picks for federal posts,” Sanders continued, referring to congress’ nod to new Attorney General Gonzales and National Intelligence Chief Negroponte, among others.

Lydell Peterson, a student at the University of the District of Columbia could only chuckle as he considered the thought that the next chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court could be Clarence Thomas.

“What can you say?” Peterson, a registered Democrat asked. “Personally I don’t have any problems with the man. He does his job and seems to

work hard. I think he’s intelligent and it’s admirable how far he’s come. He’ll do fine, I wish him all the best.”

Ryan Seder, also a Democrat and junior legal communications major at Howard University agrees with Peterson. “He’s a good person for the job. He has a mind of his own and he stands his ground,” he says. Seder believes that Thomas receives disapproval from African-Americans only because he is a black republican.

Clarence Thomas, the first African-American since justice Thurgood Marshall to serve on the nation’s highest court, is widely known as an icon of conservatism. He faced extreme criticism last year for his opposition of affirmative action and for his opinion in the court decision that ended the recount of Florida’s ballots in the 2000 presidential election.

“I don’t like him,” Sean Parker, senior public relations major, said offering his views on Thomas’ possible promotion. “I don’t think he makes decisions that are in the best interest of the people, but he makes decisons in the best interest of maintaining his conservative image amongst his court peers.” Parker said that Thomas would do more harm than good if appointed.


The opinions of Clarence Thomas and his ability to be a successful chief justice vary amongst the experts as well.

“I think Thomas would make an outstanding chief justice,” said Trent

England, Legal Policy Analyst in the Center for Legal and Judicial studies at the Heritage Institute. England said that although the ideal characteristics of a chief justice differ depending on the administration, some of the attributes sought include “unclouded thinking” and the ability to take “strong ideological stands” both of which, he believes, Thomas possesses.

“Thomas is more interested in coming to the right answer rather than looking at politics or ejecting his views outside of the law.” England believes that Thomas has proven himself to be a person who enjoys his position, is dedicated to it, and is not interested in gaining any popularity.

U.S. Supreme Court justices serve on the judicial bench for life or until voluntary retirement. If appointed chief justice, Thomas would preside over all State Supreme Court judges as well as the U.S. Supreme Court. As the most powerful and the most influential judge, he would set the tone for the court and make decisions that could go downas landmarks in history, a move that Michael Frazier, Ph.D is positive will not happen.

“Clarence Thomas will not be appointed to chief justice. If he is appointed it will be a travesty,” said Frazier, Associate Professor of Political Science at Howard University. “He does not talk, he does not ask questions, and he has a complicity that is contradictory to federalism.”

Dr. Frazier disagreed with the opinion that Thomas is an individual in his credo, insisting that his voting record perfectly aligns with majority conservative belief. “He has displayed consistently through his actions and his votes that he supports an ideology and not the notion of justice.” Frazier added that Thomas is not respected within the black community like other public figures.

Thomas, who is frequently noted as one of the most powerful Blacks in the nation, is a model of what African-Americans can achieve in America, however, Frazier asks, “at what price?”

Clarence Thomas, at 56, is the youngest of the Supreme Court justices. If he is appointed chief justice, Thomas will be the first African-American to head the U.S. Supreme Court.