Justice Clarence Thomas recently spoke at a Supreme Court Fellows program at the Library of Congress. According to reports, he addressed a wide range of court-related issues, ranging from the federal confirmation process to his own tenure on the court.
But this is the passage that really struck me:
“There’s a real decided difference between what is said about what goes on and judging and the court and what actually happens,” Thomas said. “There’s the real world and there’s the myth of that world.”
Thomas specifically cited accusations that judges “just want to execute people.”
“I haven’t met a judge who wants to execute anybody,” he said. “I haven’t met that judge yet. In fact, every judge I have met, going through these cases — look at what it does to your hair. You start out, your hair is black. You have lots of it. Then all of a sudden, you’re follically impaired. Your hair, what’s left, it turns gray, and you say, ‘Oh my God, another execution.’ Every one of us is like, ‘Did I get it right? Did I make a mistake?’”
In our tantrum-induced political environment, it’s easy to ascribe the worst motivations to anyone with whom we disagree, and even easier to caricature them as monsters. Judges struggle with the difficult issues more than most of us — and unlike legislators, have little or no opportunity to respond to brazen personal attacks.