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Hobbyhorse Alert

[ 39 ] June 29, 2011 |

Whether it’s based on racist condescension or some other form of ignorance, the idea that Thomas is Scalia’s sockpuppet was always wrong in an offensive way, and is becoming more obviously so.


Comments (39)

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  1. scepticus says:

    Speaking of ignorance, what is a hobyhorse? I don’t understand the title of the post.

  2. anthony says:

    As much as it pains me to say this, at least Scalia is intellectually honest. Thomas and Scalito and Thomas, not so much.

    • mpowell says:

      I don’t know about that. Thomas may be corrupt, which is another topic altogether, but most of his cases do not involve parties that are paying his wife money or donating to his favorite charities in his name. So on the cases where he does not have a conflict of interest he has an ideology that he applies more or less consistently. It’s just that his ideology is far more insane than Scalia’s or anyone else for that matter.

      • cer says:

        I think Thomas’s defense against corruption is that he only accepts bribes from those with whom he has ideological affinity anyway. I am not buying the narrative of Scalia’s intellectual honesty. He does have a slippery intellectual veneer that conceals much.

    • L2P says:

      Well, yes, Scalia vigorously ARGUES that he’s rigorously applying strict intellectual principles free from passion or prejudice. Others would say that he isn’t free of prejudice just because, although he’s a conservative, his prejudices occasionally favor free speech or rights to challenge witnesses. He’s just more self-righteous about it.

    • Anderson says:

      No, Gonzales v. Raich disproved Scalia’s intellectual honesty pretty conclusively.

    • Boudleaux says:

      Yes, Bush v. Gore merely emphasized his longstanding and completely honest commitment to equal protection principles, a commitment which is especially amazingly honest in the voting-rights context.

    • Furious Jorge says:

      He’s not intellectually honest. He just can turn a deliciously snarky phrase once in a while.

  3. DK says:

    Please keep banging this drum. Ugh.

  4. Breyer-Ginsburg is no longer on the top-10, so I think all that this shows is that since the late ’90s we’ve appointed some new Justices who have created even stronger parings than Breyer-Ginsburg, Breyer-Souter, Souter-Ginsburg, or Scalia-Thomas (the top 4 pairings on the Rehnquist court).

  5. Marc says:

    Is the lower number 92% or 50%? I suspect something closer to the former: we basically have a group of five right wing thugs who vote together almost all of the time and four moderates who vote together against them.

  6. I think it’s based largely on Scalia and Thomas being, for several years, a cohesive bloc well to the right of even the other conservatives on the court. Combine this with Scalia’s more extensive questioning and writing, and it’s understandable that people would conclude that he’s the brains of the outfit.

    Now that they’ve been joined by Alito and Roberts, they don’t stand out as being particularly similar compared to other justices, but before those appointments, they did.

    • NonyNony says:

      I think this sounds like it could be correct, but then I’m not a lawyer and so I don’t know how much of the “Thomas is Scalia’s sidekick” was actually something you could really read into the pre-Roberts court and how much of it was media narrative from the get-go.

      After reading a bit on the California video game law decision, I think there’s more evidence than ever that Thomas is his own man on the court. He and Scalia clearly have SOME differences if the two of them could come to such drastically different readings on that case, what with Thomas going back to the Puritans for his dissent and all. At the very least it suggests that they have different ideas of what “original intent” might mean I suppose :)

      • It’s also possible that Thomas has grown more into his own man. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a justice’s views have evolved as his service went on, or that a justice became less deferential to the leadership of his wing of the court.

    • Aaron says:

      I thought the conventional wisdom went something like this: When Thomas was new to the court, Scalia generously allowed him to hire a clerk from his staff, whose views happened to align pretty well with Scalia’s, and during the early years (whether as a result or by coincidence) the opinions of Scalia and Thomas largely overlapped. Since then there has been greater divergence. That would make it less of a direct influence, and more of ‘the first draft of every brief and memo often comes from a clerk whose opinions happen to align with Scalia’s.”

      There is also the factor that after the first few years the court itself became more conservative, such that Scalia and Thomas were less apt to be united against a broader philosophy they opposed, and thus having more room to advance their somewhat different approaches to conservatism. A “Me against my neighbor, me and my neighbor against those evil liberals” sort of thing.

      • DK says:

        The problem with this conventional wisdom is that Thomas was already a movement conservative before he joined the Court, so it’s not clear why we need an explanation of why he stayed very conservative after joining the Court. And Thomas staked out some pretty unique (for the Court) positions fairly early on.

        So the question remains – why do people look for an explanation for Thomas’ behavior in terms of the influence of another (supposedly more intellectual) justice?

  7. fourmorewars says:

    I remember, years back, some court watchers were talking about the just-ended term, and one of tem remarked on Scalia, how, when he felt that the side he favored could win on solid, jurisprudential grounds, he’d play the dispassionate justice, as in, ‘while one sympathizes with so-and-so, the hard facts of the matter are…’ But when the solid ground was against him, and here the guy used the women-cadets-allowed-into-The-Citadel case as an example, Scalia would tend to go off on a rant about what it means to uphold an honored tradition blah blah blah… Quite intellectually dishonest, in other words.

  8. cpinva says:

    while i certainly agree with the basic premise of your post, i do have one question: has justice thomas ever had an original thought?

  9. Oscar Leroy says:

    “Whether it’s based on racist condescension or some other form of ignorance…”

    Could it be because Thomas has never–not once–asked a question from the bench? It’s not racist to think that makes a justice vacuous and disinterested.

  10. Julian says:

    The NYT and other news outlets reported in March of 2011 that Thomas had gone five years without asking a question:

    So I infer that he has previously asked questions from the bench.

  11. Walt says:

    Since Thomas is deeply corrupt and his jurisprudence an attack on America and everything that makes it great, calling him “Scalia’s sockpuppet” doesn’t strike me as much of an insult. The real problem with the man is that he should be in prison, and yet he’s on the Supreme Court.

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