When the Supreme Court hears arguments next week, it will mark the fifth anniversary of Justice Clarence Thomas's silence during oral argument - unless he chooses to re-enter the give-and-take. We hope he will.
This milestone has stirred a wide conversation about his effectiveness as a justice following another about his ethics. They are actually related. How Justice Thomas comports himself on the bench is a matter of ethics and effectiveness, simultaneously. His authority as a justice and the court's as an institution are at issue.
The editorial repeated tired accusations from the left-wing Common Cause alleging Thomas's conflict of interest based on his wife's lobbying and Thomas's attendance at a political event sponsored by conservative philanthropists Charles and David Koch. Common Cause led a protest outside the gathering filled with racist and violent comments about Thomas that the paper has yet to acknowledge .
Then there was this hypocritical expression of concern.
Taking part in oral arguments would be good for the justice and the court. In a landmark article about judging, the scholar John Leubsdorf said a justice should abide by three principles: avoid basing a vote on personal considerations; avoid basing a vote on facts learned outside the case; and consider both sides' arguments. Taking part in arguments is a way for Justice Thomas to convey that he honors the third principle. By engaging with lawyers for both sides in cases and showing open-mindedness in exchanges with them, he would show his dedication to the court's impartiality and to its integrity as an institution.As if the left-wing Times editorial page would respect Thomas any more if he did start to express himself.
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