A great irony exists in the premise that the lone sitting African-American Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States has become public enemy number one for the political party that esteems itself as the vanguard for diversity, equality, and social justice. Nevertheless, that’s where Justice Clarence Thomas has found himself in recent months. While vitriol of Thomas began to magnify following his dissenting opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision not to grant a petition for review challenging the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election filed by numerous state attorney generals, the landmark decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has drastically accelerated democrats efforts to dispense of a man that President Joseph Biden once fought in support of following his appointment in 1991. This fervency has reached a fever pitch after a petition to impeach Justice Thomas recently passed the 300,000 signature threshold.
Though the decision overturning Roe v. Wade has become the catalyst shaping a narrative, if not outright motivating a strategy to execute a plan to impeach Thomas, the petition in question was originally tendered long before last week’s paradigm-shifting decision. Instead, the petition to impeach him is rooted in another political narrative that the Democratic Party is clinging to in the hope of salvaging the forthcoming midterm elections: the January 6th “insurrection.” In January of this year, Thomas found himself dissenting against the majority of his fellow justices who struck down a request by former President Donald Trump to bar the release of over 700 pages of his White House records to be sent to the House Select Committee investigating the incident that took place on January 6th, 2021. Thomas aside, every other judge voted against the injunction preventing their release.
Thomas’ position in favor of the injunction sought by Trump was the spark that motivated the public policy advocacy group MoveOn to draft its petition to impeach the Associate Justice. MoveOn highlighted correspondence between Thomas’ wife Ginni and Trump adviser John Eastman and former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as cause to investigate the justice’s potential role in orchestrating the events that unfolded at the United States Capitol. Though the petition languished by failing to arrive at even 150,000 signatures by April, it’s gained steam since the leaked majority opinion of Dobbs was revealed and even more so since the decision was officially announced. By June 16th, about one month following the leak, the petition exceeded 230,000 signatures. Following the announcement of the Dobbs decision last Friday, that benchmark has risen to over 300,000 signatures.
Although Justices confirmed to the Supreme Court are afforded lifetime positions, those judges can indeed be impeached. Since 1790, the first year the Supreme Court convened, only one justice has ever been impeached out of the 115 to have successfully been confirmed. Associate Justice Samuel Chase was appointed by George Washington in 1796 before being impeached just 8 years later in 1804. Chase’s impeachment draws parallels to calls for Thomas insofar as the Washingtonian justice was held as an iconoclast who drew the ire of then-President Thomas Jefferson. Like that of the impeachment process taken against a United States President, Chase’s removal from the Supreme Court was contingent upon a Senate vote in favor of that. Ultimately, the United States Senate voted against removing Justice Chase who would go on to serve in his official capacity until his death in 1811.
While that historic parallel demonstrates the available recourse to have Justice Thomas removed from his seat, it also illustrates the unlikely event that it will be a successful endeavor. Desperate as ever, the success of this initiative may not be as valuable to democrats as much as the political favor pursuing it will garner from their base. Quintessential desperate congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has already championed the mission to impeach Thomas, highlighting how a discussion on the matter has already embedded itself into the thoughts of the most advantageous politicians throughout the nation. The New York Congressional Representative demonstrated the sensationalist narrative that will serve as a vehicle for impeachment discussions by even suggesting that Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh could each be impeached for lying during their confirmation hearings.
Even moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin expressed his disdain for the Dobbs decision by echoing Ocasio-Cortez’s sentiment, in doing so calling the honesty of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh’s testimony at their respective confirmation hearings into doubt, saying he “trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v Wade was settled legal precedent, and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s unhinged crusade to reshape the Supreme Court to suit the democratic political agenda especially went for the jugular against Thomas, asserting multitudes of reasons he should be impeached beyond the basis cited in the aforementioned petition. Ocasio-Cortez also took aim at Thomas’ failure to report his wife’s income on financial disclosure forms from 2003 to 2007 as a potential basis for further impeachment proceedings against him.
The discussions surrounding the possible impeachment of Clarence Thomas highlight what may be the greatest flaw in the Supreme Court: its inherent politicization. Though tasked with being an arbiter of political action, the body itself is the manifestation of the very politicians who so often violate the tenants of the United States Constitution. From the fallout following the leaked Dobbs decision (which was so serious it motivated an assassination plot against Justice Kavanaugh) to rekindled discussions of initiatives to change the constructs of the court to suit the will of the current political hegemons, it is clear that the Supreme Court is as vulnerable as the American people of being a molded by the powers that be in order to serve their purpose instead of dutifully protecting the integrity of the constitution.
So long as the Executive and Legislative Branches that appoint and confirm Supreme Court Justices are this unscrupulous, the rights that the United States Constitutional imbues into citizens will be just as precarious.