More than 100 former clerks came to the defense of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas this week, writing an open letter to support him after new articles have accused him recently of taking liberty with court ethics.
In their letter, Thomas’ former clerks wrote:
“As his law clerks, we offer this response. Different paths led us to our year with Justice Thomas, and we have followed different paths since. But along the way, we all saw with our own eyes the same thing: His integrity is unimpeachable.
“And his independence is unshakable, deeply rooted seven decades ago as that young child who walked through the door of his grandparents’ house for a life forever changed.”
There were 112 people who signed onto the letter. That list includes people who currently serve as law professors, partners at big law firms, general counsels and solicitors general.
There were also three current judges on circuit courts who signed it – Allison Rushing, who serves on the 4th Circuit; Jim Ho, who serves on the 5th Circuit; and David Stras who serves on the 8th Circuit.
The letter talks about Thomas’ upbringing, as he descended from slaves from West Africa, and was born to a mother who was young and lived in Georgia, which was segregated at the time.
It explains that Thomas’ father left the family household, which was described as a shack, and a subsequent fire “took all he had.”
He eventually packed everything he owned in “a half-filled paper grocery bag” and went to live with his grandparents. They enrolled him in a Catholic school that was run by Irish nuns and was segregated as well.
That led him to believe he wanted to serve as a priest, and he finished his school in seminary.
The letter explained of Thomas:
“He was at times the only black seminarian among a sea of white faces. Then came 1968. King was assassinated. Then Kennedy. It transformed him. He left behind the hopes of the priesthood. He found Black Power. He wrote about revolution. He protested.
“He went to law school. He became a father. He worked for legal aid. He saw forced busing and violence and insolence in South Boston. He devoted himself to doing better for his son.
“He took the road less traveled.”
After working hard, overcoming myriad challenges and ascending all the way to the highest court in the nation, Thomas stuck to his high standards of ethics, according to the clerks.
They wrote that they had a “front-row seat” to watch him work, and wrote that he is “a man of greatest intellect, of greatest faith, and of greatest patriotism.”
The letter continued:
“He is a man of unwavering principle. He welcomes the lone dissent. He is also a man of great humor and warmth and generosity. Walk the halls, and you’ll hear his laugh. Call, and he answers. …
“Lately, the stories have questioned his integrity and his ethics for the friends he keeps. They bury the lede. These friends are not parties before him as a Justice of the Court. And these stories are malicious, perpetuating the ugly assumption that the Justice cannot think for himself.”