Even Justice Clarence Thomas makes mistakes. After all, he voted against me in the only case I've argued in front of him.
But in terms of the art of judging, Justice Thomas comes as close to the ideal envisioned by the Framers of the Constitution as anyone in modern times. As a result, Justice Thomas's jurisprudence merits special attention.
I first encountered Clarence Thomas more than 20 years ago, when I was a young lawyer and he was chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Like many other idealistic young conservative and libertarian lawyers, I was hearing the siren call of the Reagan administration. I finally succumbed when I received a job offer to serve as special assistant to the EEOC's newest commissioner, Rosalie “Ricky” Silberman. I didn't know much about the EEOC, but it dealt with issues I cared about and I liked and respected Ricky.
Shortly after I had quit my job at Mountain States Legal Founda- tion and sold my house in Denver in anticipation of a move to Washington, D.C., I received a frantic call from Ricky. “Don't worry,” she said, “if it doesn't work out here I'll help you get a job somewhere else.”
“What?” I asked, thinking she was kidding even as an icy feeling of panic gripped me.
I had written an op-ed attacking the civil rights establishment and calling for a new generation of civil rights leadership. I had submitted it to the Washington Times, which had kept it on the shelf for months and unbeknownst to me elected to publish it just as I was ready to take my new job.
Ricky told me she couldn't have an assistant who wrote controver- sial articles, especially given that she hadn't been confirmed to her post by the Senate yet. Not only that, but among the new generation of civil rights leaders, I hadn't even mentioned the commission's chairman, Clarence Thomas. What a faux pas!