• Donald V. Watkins

Clarence Thomas: A "Pay-To-Play" Scheme at the U.S. Supreme Court?

Updated: Jun 24

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on April 7, 2022


An Editorial Opinion


Clarence Thomas has been a huge embarrassment on the U.S. Supreme Court for more than 31 years. President George H.W. Bush nominated Thomas to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court's first African-American justice. Prior to his appointment to the nation's highest court, Justice Marshall had achieved an outstanding record as a civil rights attorney. He had also argued several landmark cases before the Court, including Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that ended legally enforced racial segregation in public schools.


Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas had no significant achievements in the field of law beyond graduating from law school and serving in several patronage jobs in Washington government agencies that were reserved for black Republican political hustlers and their home-bred "Uncle Toms." Thomas is widely regarded in the nation's African-American community as the ungrateful beneficiary of an endless series of affirmative action initiatives, starting with his admission to law school and ending with his appointment to the Supreme Court bench.


Throughout his lackluster legal and judicial career, Clarence Thomas, who is weak on intellectual acumen, has prided himself on his outstanding ability to serve as an ingratiating, subservient "bellhop" for far right-wing conservative groups in America. Thomas has gleefully assumed the mantle as the nation's premier "Uncle Tom."


Legal scholars have rated Clarence Thomas as one of the four worse Justices in the history of the Supreme Court. He joins the company of former Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who authored the famous 1857 ruling in the Dred Scott case holding that black Americans, whether freed or slaves, had no rights that white men were bound to respect.


Clarence Thomas has taken the Dred Scott ruling to heart. In researching this article, I did not find a single case in which Clarence Thomas ruled in favor of a black plaintiff in a civil rights or voting rights case during his 31 years on the Supreme Court.


What is worse, Clarence Thomas has voted to impose the death penalty on black defendants in criminal cases where all eight of the white justices on the Court (progressives and conservative alike) ruled that intentional prosecutorial misconduct and overt racial bias tainted the legal proceedings in the trial court.


Does Clarence Thomas Sell His Vote on the Supreme Court?


Clarence Thomas is in the news, again. Recent media reports have surfaced that call into question Thomas' misconduct as a Supreme Court justice. Apparently, various conservative advocacy groups with an interest in cases pending before the Supreme Court have hired Thomas' wife, Virginia, to serve as a "consultant" in these cases.


Virginia Thomas worked behind the scenes to achieve the desired outcome in these cases, and she was paid handsomely for her work. Clarence Thomas never disclosed this glaring conflict of interest, and he never recused himself from these cases.


It is unclear how much of the money that was paid to Virginia Thomas in these cases found its way into Clarence Thomas' pocket. What we know for sure is this: The money found its way into the Thomas's household.


A review of the cases tainted by this highly suspect arrangement reveals that Clarence Thomas always voted with the side that lined Virginia Thomas' pocket.


At its core, this shady financial arrangement is the judicial version of a "pay-to-play" scheme at the U.S. Supreme Court, and it happened on multiple occasions. It is unethical judicial conduct that is criminal in nature.


Today, nobody is policing this ongoing and unsavory "pay-to-play" scheme where Virginia Thomas rakes in the money for the cases of interest to the couple, while Clarence Thomas: (a) participates in judicial conferences on these case, (b) lobbies fellow justices for the votes needed to achieve the desired outcome, and (c) casts his vote as directed by Virginia.


Virginia Thomas is Clarence Thomas' Publicly Acknowledged "Best Friend" and "Other Leg"


In describing his loving relationship with Virginia Thomas, Clarence Thomas uses an apropos analogy that a "one-legged man cannot run." He openly concedes that Virginia Thomas is his "other leg" and "best friend," and this is why he has been so successful (in his mind) as a Supreme Court justice.


It is clear that Clarence Thomas loves his wife dearly and that she is the driving force in his life. Clarence Thomas strives to implement Virginia's right-wing activist political agenda from his seat on the Supreme Court. The two legs in this interracial marriage are running hard and fast for far right-wing conservatives in the "political thicket" and on the federal bench.


It is equally clear that Virginia Thomas controls Clarence Thomas' vote on the Supreme Court. Virginia's power over Clarence Thomas is derived from (a) his undying love for his wife and (b) his engrained, life-long, racial inferiority complex, which Clarence Thomas tries to mask under the cloak of conservative jurisprudence.


The spousal love between Clarence and Virginia Thomas is a beautiful thing. However, Clarence Thomas' growing pattern and practice of selling his vote on the Supreme Court is not.


Does Clarence Thomas' "Uncle Tom" Status Elevate Him Above the Law?


Clarence Thomas' solid credentials as an "Uncle Tom" appear to elevate him above the nation's criminal laws and above any obligation to comply with judicial ethics. If Clarence Thomas had not been the greatest living "Uncle Tom" in America today, he would have already been indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced to federal prison for his part in the couple's ongoing "pay-to-play" scheme.


It is obvious that Clarence Thomas has no personal integrity, or regard for judicial ethics, or appreciation for the integrity of the Supreme Court. Thomas is a longtime political hustler who has been highly successfully in hustling white right-wing conservatives in Washington for personal gain. This is how and why Thomas became a Supreme Court justice 31 years ago.


Someone will have to clean up Clarence Thomas' public corruption and ethical mess. Remarkably, Thomas has single-handedly soiled the Supreme Court's stellar reputation for independence, integrity, and judicial ethics, for the first time ever.


In the process, Clarence Thomas has also defecated on judicial ethics and the rule of law. The stench from Clarence and Virginia's unlawful "pay-to-play" scheme is unbearable.


Epilogue


The irony of Clarence Thomas' twisted world of far-right conservative politics is this: Thomas claims to be an "originalist" who interprets the U.S. Constitution as it was originally written more than 250 years ago by the Founding Fathers, all of whom were rich white men. Some of these men were notorious slave owners and physical abusers of women of all colors.


There is no express right in the Constitution that gives a black man the right to marry a white woman. In fact, blacks and women of all colors had no rights in the original version of the Constitution. Blacks came within the ambit of the Constitution's protections in 1865, 1866, and 1868. Women came within its ambit in 1922.


Interracial marriages between blacks and whites like the one Clarence and Virginia enjoy were unlawful and outright criminal in this country until 1967. Fortunately, a forward-looking U.S. Supreme Court struck down all prohibitions on interracial marriages in the case of Loving v. Virginia (1967), thereby freeing Clarence Thomas to bask in the warm glow of Virginia Thomas' love.


Under Clarence Thomas' expressed "originalist" judicial philosophy, the Loving v. Virginia case, which benefitted the Thomases personally, was incorrectly decided because it rests on the principle of judicial activism.


Clarence Thomas and many southern conservatives also hold the same "originalist" judicial view about Brown v. Board of Education. Obviously, there is nothing in the Constitution, or its amendments, that says black students have a constitutional right to attend the same public school with white students and sit in the same classrooms with them.


In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court held that blacks did not enjoy a Constitutional right to end racial segregation in public schools and public accommodations. In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education overruled Plessy v. Ferguson. Adhering to his "originalist" philosophy and consistent with his demonstrated disdain for protecting the civil and constitutional rights of black Americans, Clarence Thomas would have voted with the majority of justices in the Plessy v. Ferguson case.


Likewise, in Clarence Thomas' "originalist" view, the right of blacks (and other racial minorities) to vote, hold office, and otherwise participate in the electoral process does not exist, as was the case from 1619 to 1865, and is unenforceable under the Fifteenth Amendment, as was the case during the racially oppressive Jim Crow era from 1877 to 1965. In 2013, Clarence Thomas proudly joined a 5-4 majority of justices on the Supreme Court who gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act and ushered in a renaissance period of disenfranchisement for black and brown Americans that continues to the present.


In the end, Clarence and Virginia Thomas have revealed who and what Clarence Thomas really is -- a run-of-the mill crook with solid and trusted "Uncle Tom" credentials who hustled his way to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Far right-wing conservatives created this embarrassing "pay-to-play" tar-baby. In the eyes of an increasingly frustrated public, Clarence Thomas has undermined the independence of the U.S. Supreme Court and stained its stature, forever.



IMAGE: Virgina Thomas with husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

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