Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was recently put in the same position as Mark Twain, who in 1897 sent a cable to New York Journal correspondent Frank Marshall White, reading:
I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead….
The report of my death was an exaggeration.
In Thomas’ case, there were no reports that he was dead, but there were rumors being spread that he was going to retire from the Supreme Court this summer.
On June 3, Thomas was interviewed by David Rubenstein, a financier and philanthropist, in the Supreme Court’s courtroom as part of a series of lectures sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society.
Rubenstein asked Thomas whether it was “enemies putting [out ideas about his pending retirement] or your friends putting that out because they wanted you to rest more.”
“I have no idea where this stuff comes from,” Thomas told Rubenstein with a laugh.
“I think people just wanted to know what I was going to do, since I couldn’t figure it out myself.”
Thomas told the Washington Post that he first heard the rumors from his wife, Ginni, “who gets these alerts.”
She asked him about the rumors, saying, “What is it I don’t know?”
Thomas asked his wife, “What are you talking about?”
She said, “You’re going to retire.”
Always maintaining his sense of humor, Thomas told her, “Wow — good to know that. I mean, you have to know every day what’s on your schedule.”
Thomas said he and his wife would continue their usual practice of traveling the country in their 40-foot motor home this summer. His wife usually registers them at the RV parks where they stay, and they take advantage of all the senior discounts available.
“The senior citizens have looked out for themselves,” he said.
During a talk at Pepperdine University Law School in April, the university's president-elect James Gash asked Thomas how he handles the stress of the job. Thomas — a devout Catholic — said he goes to Mass, reads, spends time with his wife, and watches sports.
“I really don’t have a lot of stress. I cause stress,” said Thomas, drawing a laugh from the audience. “For 28 years, I’ve had colleagues who are like family. They’re good people. So I can’t say I have a lot of stress.”
The New York Times reported that Thomas is now the High Court’s longest-serving current member. The Times cited political scientists who have said that Thomas is the most “conservative” justice in the Supreme Court’s modern history. As we have noted in previous articles, Thomas is perhaps the one true constitutional originalist left on the U.S. Supreme Court.
As we have also said, at an age when most of us are beginning to enjoy retirement, Thomas shows no signs of stepping down.
Photo: AP Images