Justice Thomas Speaks at Stetson Law School

February 2nd, 2010

Take a listen courtesy of WUSF. He talks about Citizens United, theĀ  State of the Union, and more. H/T @JessBravin

[podcast]http://www.wusf.usf.edu/player/download.php?file=/sites/default/files/2-2 Clarence Thomas at Stetson.MP3[/podcast]

Some highlights:

Constitutional law is not a subject. It’s our coutnry. It’s about how we deal wiht our government. it is about whether we’ll be ruled, or governed by consent. It’s about how we participate. It is not a subject. Law school is not just school. It is helping people solve every day problems in a way that is short of fisticuffs or force. It is the rule of law. If we lose the system we have, what will we have?

I’m with Lincoln. I don’t think I’ll belong remembered. But the Constitution we preserve will eb long remembered. Our job is to make their sacrifice worthwhile. At the end fo each term I take my clerks to Gettysburg to see why this is important. It’s not just about Ids and Ibids. Its not about case citations. Those are tools we work with. What we do is more important than that. Even though we get mired in day to day things, there is something larger that looms, a grand purpose, something important.

God knows. I know nothing about politics.

District Court judges are underpaid and under-appreciated.

I enjoyed my “two minutes” on the Court of Appeals.

Asked about sitting as district judge, “A man needs to know his limitations.” Rehnquist, who sat by designation as a district judge, did not know his limitations. He was reversed per curiam by 4th Circuit. “I’m not stupid. District Judges are really good at what they do.”

Real problem of diversity on SCOTUS is too many Ivy Leagues. 8/9 from Harvard or Yale.

What is your favorite amendment, and why? “You want me to say the 2nd amendment … I like the whole thing. The structure is our biggest protection, not the Bill of Rights. That is why I’ve written so much on the commerce clause and federalism.”

13th, 14th, or 15th amendments are very important or I’d be in a rice field somewhere.

EU Constitution is so long. Look at this little document, and think how few people have read it.

@42:00. When asked about State of the Union. I don’t go to the state of the unions anymore. That’s why we stopped going during the Clinton administrations. Since Clinton Administration, I went to one, after 9/11, and another to accompany new colleagues. I don’t go because it has become so partisan. Very uncomfortable for a Judge to sit there. There is a lot you don’t hear on tv. The cat calls, whooping and hollering, under the breath comments. One of the consequences, the Court becomes a part of conversation in the speeches. Example of why I don’t go.

@53:42- Expand on Justice Alito’s not true? Thomas said to go back and read why Tillman introduced the Act. Tillman from SC, concerned that Republican corporations were favorable towards Black, need to regulate them. Don’t raise this to high plane. I have taken position Court adopted with respect to how we associate. A group gets together to speak, has right. Form a partnership, still has right. When we put it in corporate form, still has a right? Ironic that NY Times, editorialized against it, is a corporation. What does the form have to do with the right? The opinion has to speak for itself. Read my other opinions. I have dissented or concurred in all campaign finance cases that distinction between corporations and individuals is absurd. All sorts of corporations, all sorts of ways we can choose to associate.

McCain has never asked me about dissenting in McCain Feingold cases.

How do you deal with precedent when intervening precedent doesn’t comport with original meaning? What do you do if Plessy is 60 years wrong? We need to be humble enough to say “we were wrong.”

In Law School, “I was a libertarian. I was confused.”

That’s why so many of my law clerks don’t go to the Ivy Leagues. Shouldn’t we support that? This is the American dream.

Declaration of Independence not a part of the Constitution, but it informs it. MLK believed in natural law. MLK said Declaration Promissory note.

I choose clerks arbitrarily. I choose the kids I like. They all come from Courts of Appeals, no start up time. A number have district court clerkships, and district judges and courts of appeals judges do the hard work. I take the ones they recommend. Filtering process. I have a screening group of former law clerks, usually listen to them 50% of the time on a good year. Kids from all backgrounds can do a good job. Give everyone a chance to resign in August. My rule = 0 tolerance for mistakes, excuses, tardiness. I want my stuff done my way. If you don’t like my opinion, all you have to do is get nominated and confirmed. Reason I go into my office- my kids. I hire a lot of clerks in their 30s.