President George H.W. Bush appointed Justice Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court in 1991, 28 years ago. Justice Thomas is a very quiet man. He was present at the opening ceremony on February 13, 2020, of the new Georgia Judicial Building, the home of the Georgia Supreme Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Justice Thomas is a strong, conservative Justice who is known by all as a strict Constructionist of the US Constitution. His short speech at the opening of the Judicial Building emphasized three things:
- Liberty does not mean the “freedom to do what you want” he said. Liberty can only be achieved by the rule of law.
- He reminded all in attendance that in the not too distant past, Georgia was a segregated state. Why was that so? The Justice believed that the judiciary lacked courage and should have known better.
- Justice Thomas challenged the judges to set aside their own “racial, religious, partisan or personal prejudices.” He implored his colleagues and all in attendance not to “overstep our boundaries.” This was a clear reference to his judicially conservative philosophy. He closed by stating that judges should find the courage to “uphold the rule of law.”
I remember studying decision of the US Supreme Court, even before law school, and finding that those Justices at the time were doing what they could to expand the Constitution, calling it a living and breathing document. How attractive. But this interpretation has led to decisions that stretched the foundation of the law, the meaning of the US Constitution as it was written. As Antonio Scalia said (former Justice of the US Supreme Court), “The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living, but dead, or as I prefer to call it, enduring.”
The two recent Justices, appointed by President Trump, are most definitely from the strict constructionist philosophy of Justice Thomas and former Justice Antonio Scalia.
While Judicial picks, done through the US Senate and the Presidency of the US, should not come from a political party, Democrats or Republicans, but should be chosen as Justice Scalia once said “As long as judges tinker with the Constitution to “do what the people want” instead of what the document actually commands, politicians who pick and confirm new federal judges will naturally want those who agree with them politically.”
Let's hope Justice Thomas and those who think like him will prevail and continue to interpret our Constitution as the Founding Fathers did, over 230 years ago.
This newly energized discovery of interpreting our Constitution, the enduring document, may just be the overarching reason our country continues to be the greatest democratic republic in the history of the world. We are the light of the world. A strong judicial system is an integral component of our greatness as a country.