The School for Ethics and Global Leadership

Fall 2014 Meets with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Date: Dec 11nd, 2014

If you had a few moments with a Supreme Court Justice, what would you ask?  What if you had 90 minutes?

Would you ask about the Constitutionality of abortion?  About the Defense of Marriage Act or the Affordable Care Act?  About how Justices get along together behind the scenes?

What if the Justice were Clarence Thomas, one of the most discussed and fascinating members of the Supreme Court?

Would you ask why he almost never speaks during Supreme Court oral arguments?  About what the recent Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases mean for our judicial system?  About how to inspire the next generation of up-from-their-bootstraps leaders?  About the book or class that influenced him the most?

This morning our students had the opportunity to meet with Justice Thomas in the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court, underneath oil paintings of John Jay, John Marshall, and other Supreme Court Chief Justices.  We met with Justice Thomas not for a five-minute meet-and-greet or a brief lecture on jurisprudence, but for an hour and a half of questions and answers.

Our meeting was off the record, so we can’t share many details.  But each questioner got a personalized response (and, at times, a bit of Socratic law school mentoring).  The session ended with some informal questions and a group photo with Justice Thomas underneath the portrait of John Jay.  (The Justice’s staff promised he would autograph a copy for each student!)

Afterwards, the students reflected on their visit.  Most were surprised by Thomas’s candor, his humor, and his willingness to offer both legal and life lessons.  The students offered great respect for his legal steadfastness and also debated the value of using the law to advance social change.

“Can we honor him as the next Golden Mug Award winner?” one asked.