Clarence Thomas

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Clarence Thomas
Current Court Information:
Supreme Court of the United States
Title:   Associate justice
Appointed by:   George H.W. Bush
Approval vote:   52-48
Active:   7/1/1991-Present
Preceded by:   Thurgood Marshall
Past post:   District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Past term:   1990-1991
Personal History
Born:   6/23/1948
Hometown:   Savannah, GA
Undergraduate:   College of the Holy Cross, 1971
Law School:   Yale Law School, 1974
Clarence Thomas is the 106th associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was appointed by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Thomas is the second African-American to serve on the nation's highest court, after Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was the first. He was elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.[1][2]

Judicial philosophy

Thomas's career in the Supreme Court has seen him take a conservative approach to cases while adhering to the principle of originalism. He has also stated that his opinions draw on his Catholic background. In instances of states' rights to govern, he has affirmed that if there is no federal precedent the state's constitution must be respected, as can be seen in the case of Kansas v. Marsh.

Early life and education

Thomas attended high school in Savannah, Georgia, where he was an honors student. Raised Roman Catholic, Justice Thomas considered entering the priesthood at the age of 16, and attended St. John Vianney's Minor Seminary (Savannah) on the Isle of Hope. At a nun's suggestion, Thomas attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. At Holy Cross, Thomas helped found the Black Student Union and graduated in 1971 with a B.A., cum laude, in English literature. Justice Thomas then attended Yale Law School, from which he received a J.D. in 1974.[2][3][4]

Professional career

Supreme Court of the United States

Opinions by year

Below is a table of the number of opinions, concurrences, dissents and splits (concur in part, dissent in part) that Clarence Thomas has issued since joining the Supreme Court, according to the data on Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.[5]

1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Opinions 0 11 9 8 8 8 9 10 7 8 9 8 9 9 8 7 7 7 9 8 8 0 0
Concurrences 0 8 7 4 7 5 4 2 7 8 8 7 5 9 7 2 8 6 6 12 8 0 0
Dissents 0 6 6 8 8 6 2 5 10 6 4 7 11 9 12 7 9 8 3 4 5 0 1
Concur in part, Dissent in part 0 0 3 1 1 3 2 1 1 1 2 3 3 2 2 2 0 1 3 1 0 0 0
Totals 0 25 25 21 24 22 17 18 25 21 23 25 28 29 29 18 24 22 21 25 21 0 1

Notable cases

Behavior on the Court

During his time on the bench, Thomas has established a reputation for not speaking during oral arguments. On January 14, 2013, Justice Thomas spoke during oral arguments for the first time since February 22, 2006. Upon breaking his silence during arguments, he made a joke about the competency of law degrees from Yale, where he earned his J.D. in 1974.[9]

Nomination and confirmation


Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Clarence Thomas
 Court:Supreme Court of the United States
 Progress:Confirmed 99 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:July 8, 1991
ApprovedAABA Rating:Qualified
ApprovedAHearing Transcript:Hearing Transcript
ApprovedAReported:October 1, 1991 
ApprovedAConfirmed:October 15, 1991
 Vote: 52-48

On July 1, 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall. President Bush said that Thomas was the "best qualified [nominee] at this time." He received a qualified rating from the American Bar Association.[10] [11]

Confirmation hearings

Clarence Thomas' formal Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings started on September 10, 1991, and ended on October 13, 1991. They occurred over 12 meetings of the Senate Judiciary Committee. During the hearings, Thomas distanced himself from his previous legal writings by offering no solid views on his political stance. Regardless of that distance, Thomas' past writings that held a strong conservative ideology led him to have no recommendation coming out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee sent Thomas on without recommendation to the full Senate on September 27, 1991, as they voted 7-7. On October 6, 1991, the day before the full Senate was set to vote on Thomas' nomination, Anita Hill, a former colleague of Thomas, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment by the nominee.[12][13]

Anita Hill allegations

Supreme Court Nomination Hearings from PBS

Toward the end of Thomas' confirmation process, an FBI interview with Anita Hill, an attorney who had worked for Thomas at the Department of Education and the EEOC, was leaked. Hill was called to testify at Thomas' confirmation hearings, where she alleged that Thomas had subjected her to inappropriate harassing comments of a sexual nature. Hill's testimony included lurid details, and she was aggressively questioned by some Senators.

Thomas denied the allegations, stating:

This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree.[14][7]


After Thomas was extensively questioned about the Hill allegations, his nomination returned to the Senate where he was confirmed with a 52-48 vote on October 15, 1991, the narrowest margin for approval in more than a century. The final floor vote was mostly along party lines: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted to confirm while 46 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted to reject the nomination. On October 23, 1991, Thomas took his seat as the 106th associate justice of the Supreme Court.[15][16]

Oath of office

Justice Thomas took the Constitutional Oath of Office in the White House Rose Garden on October 18, 1991, which was administered by Associate Justice Byron White. The Judicial Oath of Office was administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist on October 23, 1991.[17]

Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed Thomas to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Thomas served on the court for one year until he was elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States.[18]

See also

External links


  1. Supreme Court of the United States, "Biographies of Current Justices of the Supreme Court," accessed July 8, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1, "Clarence Thomas," accessed July 8, 2014
  3. Bloomberg Businessweek, "Online extra: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaks," March 11, 2007
  4. Washington Post, "Ted Wells, center of the defense," February 21, 2007
  5. Cornell University, "WRITINGS BY JUSTICE THOMAS," accessed June 16, 2014
  6. Supreme Court of the United States, "Kansas v. Marsh," June 26, 2006
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  8. Supreme Court of the United States, "Stenberg v. Carhart," June 28, 2000
  9. Above the Law, "Quote of the day: Justice Thomas speaks!," January 14, 2013
  10. New York Times, "The Supreme Court; conservative black judge, Clarence Thomas, is named to Marshall's court seat," July 2, 1981
  11. Los Angeles Times, "Thomas rated 'qualified' for court by ABA," August 28, 1991
  12. THOMAS, "Presidential Nominations 102nd Congress (1991 - 1992) PN456-102: Clarence Thomas," accessed June 13, 2014
  13. CNN, "Clarence Thomas fast facts," June 2, 2014
  14. University of Virginia Library, "Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court," accessed June 13, 2014
  15., "Thomas confirmation hearings had ripple effect," October 11, 2011
  16. THOMAS, "Confirmation vote of Clarence Thomas," accessed June 16, 2014
  17. Supreme Court of the United States, "Oaths of Office Taken by the Current Court," accessed September 3, 2013
  18. Supreme Court of the United States, "Current justice biographies," accessed June 16, 2014
Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Thurgood Marshall
Supreme Court
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Robert Bork
DC Circuit Court of Appeals
Succeeded by:
Judith Rogers