Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, celebrating his 25th year on the bench, appeared before the Heritage Foundation this week for a long conversation about his time on the high court. The constitutional originalist said that he was not optimistic about improving the way judicial appointments are debated, confirmed, and denied by Congress.
“There’s always hope, but this city is broken in some ways,” Thomas said. “I’ve been here most of my life now, and I think we’ve become very comfortable with not thinking things through and debating them. At some point, we are going to have to recognize that we are destroying our institutions and we’re undermining them.”
Thomas’s remarks come at a time when there is tremendous controversy about filling the seat vacated by his longtime friend Antonin Scalia, who died in February. Republicans in the Senate have said they will not hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, instead insisting that the choice should be left to the next president. But with a Hillary Clinton presidency looming in the polls, both John McCain and Ted Cruz have indicated recently that their opposition may go on indefinitely.
Thomas, however, said that he and his fellow justices were not exempt from blame.
“What have we done to gain [the public’s] confidence?” he asked. “Perhaps we should ask ourselves what we have done to not earn it or to earn it.”
To that end, Thomas said it was important to write opinions that could be readily understood by the layman.
“I think we hide it from them when we write in language that is inaccessible,” he said. “We owe it to people to present to them their Constitution in a way they can understand it, to enfranchise them.”
What will the Supreme Court look like at this time next year? Will Thomas have another Justice sitting next to him in the mold of his good friend, Scalia? Will Congress leave the seat vacant?
Hillary Clinton has positioned herself as a “uniter,” someone who can bring America together after one of the most divisive elections of all time. In the – (long, depressing sigh) – event that she wins on November 8, she’ll have an opportunity to put her money where her mouth is in regards to the Supreme Court. If she really wants to work with Republicans, she can offer them an olive branch in the form of a conservative nominee. Yes, legions of liberals will cry out in horror, but that’s the meaning of compromise. You aren’t going to unite the country by looking across the aisle and saying, “No, YOU back down!”
Now…want to place bets on whether or not she’ll offer that branch?