Justice Delayed


In the early 1980s I lived in the DC area while attending grad school. During that time I dated a young woman who worked in middle management at the EEOC. Every time we’d get together she’d tell me of the wild goings on at the department, known, not altogether affectionately, by its employees as EYI-EYI-EOC because of the prevalence of unethical and unprofessional behavior on the part of the department’s senior leadership, in particular sexual misconduct and almost non-stop sexual harassment.

After I left DC, I gave little thought about these tales of the EEOC until the man who ran the agency during the time my friend worked there was, in an act of breathtaking cynicism and tacit racism, nominated by George H.W. Bush to serve on the Supreme Court. Although lacking experience and considered unqualified by the ABA, Clarence Thomas was confirmed by the Senate after a bruising hearing in which he was accused by Anita Hill of sexually harassing her.

Now Thomas has published an intemperate autobiography in which he not only recapitulates his resentment at having been accepted at Yale as an affirmative action enrollee but also tries once again to portray his confirmation hearing as a high-tech lynching at the hands of the liberal elite and the black women they co-opt into trying to keep the black man down. He seems to miss the irony of the fact that his appointment to the Supreme Court was the result of a kind of sleaze ball affirmative action; no white nominee as poorly qualified or as stained by charges like those leveled by Hill would have had a prayer of confirmation. He also seems oblivious to the fact that time has served only to corroborate Hill’s testimony while also proving., beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Thomas not only perjured himself before Congress on the matter of sexual harassment, but on a range of other issues concerning his judicial philosophy. At a minimum, the kind of stories my friend told me of EEOC under Thomas’ s control are the most damning kind of evidence: unmotivated, and about a figure who was, at the time, not even in the public eye.

Long after George W Bush leaves office, we will be saddled with the deadweight of his “legacy,” perhaps the most important of which is a Supreme Court now controlled by extremist ideologues. There is, fortunately, a way of correcting this problem. The President has the power to appoint Supreme Court justices, but Congress has the power to remove them. Impeachment of a federal judge, like impeachment of a President, is a political not a criminal proceeding. Clarence Thomas is not only a liar and a perjurer, but by his very own words in his new book, he demonstrates that, like Antonin Scalia (who also should be removed from the bench), he lacks the temperament and impartiality that are sine qua non for a Supreme Court Justice.

Is something this likely to happen, given the abject spinelessness of the Democratic majority in Congress? Probably not. But we can always hope.