Tuesday, April 14, 2009

JUSTICE THOMAS THINKS AMERICANS HAVE TOO MANY RIGHTS

Adam Liptak, NY Times - Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question from the Supreme Court bench since Feb. 22, 2006. He speaks only to announce his majority opinions, reading summaries in a gruff monotone. Glimpses of Justice Thomas in less formal settings are rare.

But he turned up in a Washington ballroom the other night to respond to questions from the winners of a high school essay contest. . .

Justice Thomas talked about his own school days, reminiscing fondly about seeing "a flag and a crucifix in each classroom." He talked about his burdens and his dark moods and about seeking inspiration in speeches and movies. And though the dinner was sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, he admitted to an uneasy relationship with the whole idea of rights. . .

The event, on March 31, was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.

"Today there is much focus on our rights," Justice Thomas said. "Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights."

"I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances," he said. "Shouldn't there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?"

He gave examples: "It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They're owed air-conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions."

Those are luxuries, Justice Thomas said.

"I have to admit," he said, "that I'm one of those people that still thinks the dishwasher is a miracle. What a device! And I have to admit that because I think that way, I like to load it. I like to look in and see how the dishes were magically cleaned."

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