- Clarence Thomas says in a new book that “he has no idea why or how” he was wiretapped for the Supreme Court.
- He shared with Created Equal co-editor Michael Pack his concerns about rumors of a meeting.
- Eventually, Thomas was nominated by George W. Bush to replace retired Targud Marshall.
In a recently published book, Clarence Thomas said he had “no idea why or how” he was nominated for the Supreme Court in 1991 as he recounted the process that led him to become one of the bench’s most consistent conservative voices.
In the book Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, co-edited by Michael Pack and Mark Paolletta, Thomas sits with Pack for over 30 hours between November 2017 and March 2018, becoming an extended companion of 2020 documentary of the same name.
As he spoke to Pack, Thomas revealed that he was surprised to hear that court assistant Targud Marshall, a respected pioneer in civil rights and the first black lawyer in the High Court, was resigning.
“I have no idea why or how I was nominated. All I know is that Judge Marshall is retiring and it was a shock,” Thomas said. “My reaction was, ‘Oh no, that’s going to be bad. People will spread the word that I am one of the nominees. “
Thomas – who was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and at the time was a judge on the influential United States Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia – then spoke about the start of his possible nomination by then-President George W. Bush.
“I’m getting a call from [White House Counsel C.] Boyden Gray Judge Marshall withdrew that afternoon, saying, “Are you ready for another walk in the park?” Thomas said.
He continued: “He sent Marc Paoletta to take me to the Justice Department situation room, and Mark parked across the street from DC Circuit, across from where my wife worked, at the Department of Labor. And we went to the Justice Department. And this is where it started. They wanted to know to whom I think my views and approach are closest in the Court. And I said, “Judge Scalia, and that was mostly because of his opinion on the Olson case.”
In the Morrison v. Olson case, which was contested in 1988, the court ruled 7-1 that the Independent Lawyer Act was constitutional.
In his disagreement, Antonin Scalia, a proponent of originalism when he served in court, wrote that the law should be repealed because prosecution “is the exercise of purely executive power.”
Thomas then recalled encountering then-First Lady Barbara Bush at the family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, after being taken to the scene to speak with the president. Soon after, he found out about his nomination.
“We were walking to Bush’s residence and we came across Mrs. Bush. And she said, “Congratulations,” and then my heart sank, “he said in the interview. “And she said, ‘Oh, I guess I let the cat out of the bag.’
Shortly afterwards, the president asked Thomas two questions about taking on the role of associate judge.
“He said, ‘If you go to the Supreme Court, can you call them the way you see them?’ I said, ‘That’s the only way I know how to do it,'” Thomas recalled.
He continued, “The other was, ‘Can you and your family get confirmation?’ I said, ‘I’ve been through four and I think I can go through another one.’ And then he said, “If you go to court, I will never publicly criticize any of your opinions.” Let’s have lunch. “
After a controversial confirmation hearing, Thomas was eventually confirmed by the Senate later that year – and after Scalia’s death in 2016, he became a pillar of the court’s conservative wing.