I’m not qualified to be a municipal judge or a federal judge in the United States. Having a law degree is among the implicit qualifications. But I am qualified to be an associate justice or even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
And so are you. You see, the Constitution doesn’t specify qualifications for Justices. Age, education, profession, citizenship status aren’t mentioned. A Justice doesn’t even have to be a lawyer or a law school graduate. He or she doesn’t even have to live in the United States. To look at it that way, it’s as if the Constitutional requirements for Chief Justice were written with me in mind.
These Constitutional laissez faire vagaries don’t end there, either. It seems there are no Constitutional requirements for recusal. Get this: your wife or your husband could be a member of a cabal of traitors who tried to steal a presidential election and overthrow the very Constitution you swore to protect, and if you were Chief Justice or an associate justice you wouldn’t have to recuse yourself from deciding their fate. Think of that.
Sounds like fiction, though, does it not? Sounds like something that not only would never happen, but, in the real world we live in today, it could never happen. But for those of you who haven’t been living under the proverbial rock or aren’t in a coma, you know perfectly well that it can happen — to associate justice Clarence Thomas and his loathsome, turncoat, treasonous traitor of a wife, Virginia “Ginni” Lamp Thomas. And should her case ever come before the highest court in the land, it will happen, and her sexual predator scumbag of a husband can vote on it without having to recuse himself.
A little history. In 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas, a federal circuit judge, to succeed retiring Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Turns out Thomas had something of a past. He committed sexual harassmen of a woman named Anita Hill. We know this to be true because there was a witness, and that witness was Ms. Hill herself, who was and remains a woman of high moral integrity, honesty and scruples.
But given the times and the general hostility of men toward women — particularly women of color —- Thomas was confirmed as an associate justice anyway. And right on cue he turned out to be one of the most repugnant, ineffectual, bumblingly stupid members of SCOTUS in the august history of that occasionally fine institution. Thomas rarely has anything to say. In fact, Thomas’ silence from the bench is legendary and embarrassing on that account.
It is said that Thomas is now under a great deal of pressure to resign. But I can tell you right now he’s also under a great deal of pressure to stay put. You see, Republicans want him there so they can do horrible things to a woman’s right to choose and other civil liberties, so they can essentially roll back the cause of civil rights all the way to the “good old days” of the 1950s and continue to advance the Republican corrupt and fascistic agenda. Republicans need Thomas to stick around until after they take back the Congress in the 2022 midterm election, which is what they’re fervently hoping to do. Then he can resign and they’ll replace him with someone even more loathsome and under-qualified. So it’s time to go, Mr. Thomas, and that time is right now.
Whatever happens, the court is a rightwing supermajority right now, and will remain at the very least a rightwing majority for some time. One thing the Republican traitors have made sure of is that every one of their most recent nominees are relatively young, so they will be there for a long time to come. It’s important to remember that, while having Ketanji Brown Jackson on the court is a good thing, she will only be replacing the retiring liberal associate justice Stephen Breyer. The hateful reign of the fascist supermajority will remain intact.
America remains in the unenviable position of having to fight off incipient rightwing fascism at every turn. The assault is relentless and will carry the day unless something definitive is done about it. It is by no means a foregone conclusion who will win this struggle even in the short term, but one thing those of us on the left must never do is we must never, ever give up. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.