Follow The Leader: Clarence and Nino Edition

April 16th, 2013

So which Justice made Justice Scalia so conservative? Was it O’Connor who changed her vote on abortion? Or Kennedy who swings every which way? Rehnquist’s slide to the left as Chief? Or Souter (well, it wasn’t Souter). To no one’s surprise, Justice Scalia claims that Justice Thomas is most responsible for his shift to the right–not the other way around.

Other questions involved matters of particular interest to lawyers and inveterate court watchers. One student asked if it was true that JusticeĀ Clarence Thomas, after joining the court in 1991, was the one who led Justice Scalia to the right, rather than other way around.

“Yes, it is true,” Justice Scalia said, suggesting that in the 1990s the news media unsuccessfully tried to pressure Justice Thomas to moderate his positions by painting him as a pawn of Justice Scalia. But behind the scenes, “what happened was I had followed Clarence.”

Likewise, Justice Scalia added, media fascination with Justice Thomas’s habitual silence at oral argument was likely to harden his resolve to keep his peace. Justice Thomas is “a very stubborn man,” Justice Scalia said.

Let no one doubt Clarence.