A United States Supreme Court Justice visits Nebraska, insisting he doesn’t adhere to one particular judicial philosophy and that the courts have taken on too much.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas rejected suggestions he’s a follower of “originalism” during a question-and-answer session with University of Nebraska-Lincoln law professors.
“I am a follower of get-it-rightism,” Thomas said to laughter among the University of Nebraska-Lincoln law students who packed the Hamann Auditorium on the UNL East Campus in Lincoln.
On a more serious note, Thomas said that when he approaches a case before the court, he tries to get to the original meaning of the document in question. He said he builds a firewall between his personal preference and the document.
Thomas said it’s important to understand the original meaning, what the words mean.
“The Constitution is written in words. Do people think it’s written in symbols?” Thomas responded. “(They) say you’re a texturalist, well, what else am I supposed to do, use a Ouija Board, chicken bones or something like that?”
Thomas used humor throughout the 90-minute conversation at UNL, in which he added favorable comments about the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He answered questions posed by UNL law professors Josephine Potuto, Eric Berger and Richard Duncan. At one point, when Duncan preceded a question by stating that he would like to get away from the Constitution for a little bit, Thomas quipped, “We do that every day,” to laughter in the audience, adding “We use the Constitution as a point of departure.”
On some topics, he struck a more serious, somber tone. Thomas said he chooses law clerks from schools outside the Ivy League, pointing out that all of the members of the United States Supreme Court graduated from Ivy League schools, mostly Harvard and Yale. He criticized the elite law schools for breeding cynicism by teaching what is wrong with the law and for an ideology slanted to the Left.
Thomas, who enters his 20th year on the court next month, said the courts have become too involved in too many things.
“I don’t know about all these big moral questions any better, more than anybody else,” Thomas said without stating any specifics. “And, unless I have a law to deal with, I think we’re off our terrain.”
Thomas called most of the commentary on the court irresponsible.