Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Who Knew?

Just in case you hadn't been paying attention, USA Today reports that 
Clarence Thomas takes hard line on defendants
That's the headline.  Joan Biskupic lays it out for us.
During two decades as the court's most consistent conservative, he has taken a tough approach to criminal defendants' cases, showing a disdain for hard-luck tales of bad childhoods and a conviction that defendants accept responsibility.
There's nothing new here.  Biskupic runs through a few of Thomas's opinions - for the Court and in dissent - just to remind us.  But read the details she offers and you see a man who's more than "tough."
Thomas signaled his approach early four months after his October 1991 confirmation. He dissented in a case involving a Louisiana prisoner who had been shackled and punched by guards as a supervisor looked on. The beating loosened the inmate's teeth and cracked his dental plate.
The court majority in Hudson v. McMillian ruled the beating violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Thomas, joined only by Scalia, argued that the Eighth Amendment was not violated by the "insignificant" harm the inmate suffered.
Biskupic notes that the New York Times
blasted Thomas' dissenting opinion in an editorial titled, "The Youngest, Cruelest Justice." 
But it isn't cruelty.  That's not the right word.  Consider Cullen v. Pinholster from this term.  Biskupic writes:
Thomas wrote: "When he was very young, Pinholster suffered two serious head injuries, first at age 2 or 3 when he was run over by a car, and again at age 4 or 5 when he went through the windshield during a car accident. When he was 5, Pinholster's stepfather moved in and was abusive, or nearly so."
In her rendition of the facts, Sotomayor noted that it was Pinholster's mother who ran him over as child. Regarding the stepfather, Sotomayor offered no "nearly so" caveat: "Pinholster's stepfather beat him several times a week, including at least once with a two-by-four board," she wrote. "There was so much violence in the home that Pinholster's brother dreaded coming home each day. Pinholster's half-sister was removed from the home as a result of a beating by his stepfather."
You can skip over most of that.  Focus on these two things.  Thomas says Pinholster's stepfather was "abusive, or nearly so."  Sotomayor says Pinholster was beaten by the man "several times a week, including at least once with a two-by-four board." 
It's not cruel to question whether that's abusive.  It's disdainful. (And essentially irrelevant to the decision, but that's a different question.)
Suck it up is his mantra.  Whether you deserve it or not.  Them's the breaks.  If your life sucks, live with it.  If someone hurts you, too bad.  No remedies.  No relief.  No comfort.  No apologies.
So what if you spent decades in prison for a crime you didn't commit, almost got executed for it? That's life.  Why should the people who cheated to put you there have to pay for what they did?  Some people are winners, others losers.  
And who cares about the losers?


  1. Clarence Thomas may be black, but he's an Ivy Leaguer. The nation's human population, in their worldview, is divided as follows:

    Criminals: these are the people who have ever been convicted of a crime, now about 25% of the population. They belong in prison or should be executed, depending. When they are out of prison, that's just until they are sent to prison again. They are in every sense the equivalent of the "untouchables" in the Indian caste system.

    Rif-raf: This is the bulk of the rest and includes anyone from high school dropouts to professionals from lesser institutions of higher "learning", meaning even lawyers and doctors who never made it to the Ivy Leagues. They are downwardly mobile into the untouchable class, but must never be permitted up out of their bondage of perceived mediocrity, because if that was proper they would have been received into the Ivy Leagues in the first place. Sometimes these people bring grievances in courts, but their problems are their own fault and they should be grateful that we let them have so-called lawyers and bring their grievances at all before we dismiss them. They live their pathetic little lives in pathetic little places that are not Washington or NYC and sometimes they amuse us.

    Us: Ivy Leaguers. There are lesser and greater ones, but they're all in the club. If they bring a lawsuit it is Serious. They have Serious positions in Serious Places like DC and NYC. And there are no other Serious Places. Sometimes a few of Us go to places like Toledo, but it's only so we can run things because no one else there could possibly do that properly.

    Wild cards: Celebrities. Professional athletes. These people have high entertainment value but are really part of the rif-raf. Sometimes we give them a little attention because they're funny and amuse us. Like Anna Nicole Smith.

  2. You wrote: "Suck it up is his mantra. Whether you deserve it or not. Them's the breaks. If your life sucks, live with it. If someone hurts you, too bad."

    Perhaps you meant something that would make more sense as Clarence Thomas' view: "Whether or not you deserved what happened to you in your own life, don't kill another human being. Don't do it. You may have to live with your pain in any number of ways. But you should not kill another human being, causing that person and their family additional pain."

  3. I don't doubt that's what he'd say. But it would be a whole lot more credible as a view if he were honest in describing the abuse and pain and mistreatment that he thinks irrelevant to what happens to those people. It doesn't matter how horribly you were treated before is a whole lot different than trivializing the mistreatment.

    It would help his credibility on that claim, too, if he thought abuse and mistreatment of the factually innocent by the system that was accusing and sometimes convicting them was something to be concerned about.

    Sorry, the evidence supports what I wrote as what he really believes, whatever he might say.