Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas challenged a proposed ban on judges belonging to the right-leaning Federalist Society or the left-leaning American Constitution Society.
Word leaked last month that the federal judiciary’s policy-making body is considering banning judges’ membership to the Federalist Societyand American Constitution Society, while exempting the American Bar Association.
Video shared by the Federalist Society shows Justice Thomas ribbing the proposed ban during a conversation with Judge Gregory Katsasat a Florida gathering of the Federalist Society on Jan. 31. Justice Thomas also lamented the state of civic discourse in America.
“And now, I think they’re about to silence the Federalist Society, as I hear,” Justice Thomas said. “So I guess I can’t come here.”
“Some of us are fighting back,” Judge Katsas interjected.
“Yeah, well I just think that this is, I just think that we used to figure out ways to debate and to learn from each other and to sharpen each other,” Justice Thomas replied. “We did that with Justice Scalia, I’ve seen it on the court, and the sad thing for me is to see the failure to allow that to start and begin and to grow at the collegiate level or even at law schools where debate is being stifled.”
The Federalist Society has made no comment on the Judicial Conference’s proposal. A statement accompanying the Federalist Societyvideo notes, “As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.”
Justice Thomas is also the subject of a new movie “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words,” that debuted in theaters nationwide on Jan. 31. In the film, Justice Thomas shares details of his personal and professional journey to and through the Supreme Court that he has not previously discussed.
Despite the theatrical release, Justice Thomas has largely avoided publicity surrounding the motion picture. During remarks Tuesday at the dedication ceremony for the Nathan Deal Judicial Center in Atlanta, he said judges ought not seek to be revered or lionized in the press for their work.
“We are not mass media icons,” Justice Thomas said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are judges, nothing more and nothing less.”
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