Thursday, February 24, 2005
Harry Reid's "judge"ment: Senate minority leader Harry Reid made waves late last year when he went on "Meet the Press" and attacked Justice Clarence Thomas for being a poor writer and a bad justice.
When asked to comment on Thomas as a possible replacement for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Reid told NBC's "Meet the Press": "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.
"I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice."
When later challenged to provide a case where Justice Thomas' writing was sub-par, Reid came up with Hillside Dairy v. Lyons. Thomas' opinion in that case is all of one paragraph and hardly written at an "eighth-grade" level as Reid charged.
As further evidence of Reid's lack of judgement, we have today's dissenting opinion in Johnson v. California authored by Justice Thomas. [pdf format, Thomas' dissent begins on Pg. 29]
In this case, the Court's majority has decided that some felons must die lest we offend the priests of political correctness. By a 5-3 decision, (Chief Justice William Rhenquist did not participate) the Court ruled that California's practice of considering race when determining accomodations for some prisoners when they first arrive at new prisons must pass the "strict scrutiny" test.
California prisons are rife with gangs whose membership is decided largely by race. The Court would have prison officials put a member of the Aryan Brotherhood in the same cell as someone from the Mexican Mafia and expect peace and harmony to reign.
The majority contends that the Court [has] put the burden on state actors to demonstrate that their race-based policies are justified, and "[has] refused to defer to state officials' judgments on race in other areas where those officials traditionally exercise substantial discretion." Yet two Terms ago, in upholding the University of Michigan Law Schools affirmative-action program, this Court deferred to the judgment by the law schools faculty and administrators on their need for diversity in the student body. (The Law Schools educational judgment that . . . diversity is essential to its educational mission is one to which we defer). Deference would seem all the more warranted in the prison context, for whatever the Court knows of administering educational institutions, it knows much less about administering penal ones. The potential consequences of second-guessing the judgments of prison administrators are also much more severe. [footnotes excised]
Thomas' dissent is persuasive, and well-reasoned, if less acerbic than many of Justice Antonin Scalia's opinions.
Reid's real beef with Thomas is that he's a black conservative. Call it racist if you choose, but he doesn't have as big a problem with a white Catholic.
Reid would be well advised to keep his trap shut.