Great judges can serve for many years and affect lives decades after they are gone. Courageous jurists with vision and intellectual curiosity have been at the forefront of our nation’s progress and our democracy’s evolution. At a critical time in our nation’s history, attorney Thurgood Marshall spoke for those with no voice, the disenfranchised and the powerless. In Brown vs. Board of Education, he helped end segregation in American public schools. As a judge on the Court of Appeals, as Solicitor General of the United States and then as the Supreme Court’s first African American justice, Marshall helped shape the history of this diverse country. He showed courage, risking his life to bring unpopular cases. Marshall served for 24 years with distinction on the United States Supreme Court. As pointed out in a recent New York Times OpEd piece, he refused to see himself as inferior because of his race. Marshall fought Jim Crow laws for decades and wielded his knowledge of the Constitution as a righteous weapon to win racial equality under law.
So who was selected as his replacement ? Justice Clarence Thomas. Was he on anyone “short list ?!!?” Had he demonstrated any of Marshall’s courage ? Any of his intellect ? One power that Presidents have that can, and does affect the lives of American long after they leave office is the power to nominate Justices to the Supreme Court. The Justices can serve for decades, as the job comes with lifetime tenure. Great Justices can balance and check bad laws and actions by the other branches of government for the good of the people. Bad Justices do nothing, or worse, help effect bad law and government. In the next post we shall look at one aspect of Justice Thomas’ tenure that I personally find offensive.