Justice Thomas Reversed His Former Law Clerk Justice Thomas Lee of the Utah Supreme Court

June 20th, 2016

In Utah v. Strieff, Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion reversing the Utah Supreme Court. The majority decision for the unanimous Utah Supreme Court was written by Thomas’s former clerk Justice Thomas Rex Lee. Justice Lee was also on Donald Trump’s short list. Justice Thomas made clear that the lower court did not get the precedents correct:

Turning to the application of the attenuation doctrine to this case, we first address a threshold question: whether this doctrine applies at all to a case like this, where the intervening circumstance that the State relies on is the discovery of a valid, pre-existing, and untainted arrest warrant. The Utah Supreme Court declined to apply the attenuation doctrine because it read our precedents as applying the doctrine only “to circumstances involving an independent act of a defendant’s ‘free will’ in confessing to a crime or consenting to a search.” 357 P. 3d, at 544. In this Court, Strieff has not defended this argument, and we disagree with it, as well. The attenuation doctrine evalu- ates the causal link between the government’s unlawful act and the discovery of evidence, which often has nothing to do with a defendant’s actions. And the logic of our prior attenuation cases is not limited to independent acts by the defendant.

Although this should have absolutely no bearing on his qualifications, it unfortunately will be used to hurt and help him. Conservatives will say, “He agreed with Sotomayor.” Liberals will say “He agreed with Sotomayor.”