“I don’t go because it has become so partisan”

Clarence Thomas, on missing the SOTU:

Thomas.jpg

Justice Thomas would not directly address the controversy over Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Citizens United ruling or Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s mouthed “not true” in response. But he did say he had stopped attending the addresses.

“I don’t go because it has become so partisan and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there,” he said, adding that “there’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV — the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.”

“One of the consequences,” he added in an apparent reference to last week’s address, “is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.”

He also had lots to say about the Citizens United decision:

Justice Thomas responded to several questions from students at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., concerning the campaign finance case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. By a 5-to-4 vote, with Justice Thomas in the majority, the court ruled last month that corporations had a First Amendment right to spend money to support or oppose political candidates.

“I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company,” Justice Thomas said. “These are corporations.”

The part of the McCain-Feingold law struck down in Citizens United contained an exemption for news reports, commentaries and editorials. But Justice Thomas said that reflected a legislative choice rather than a constitutional principle.

He added that the history of Congressional regulation of corporate involvement in politics had a dark side, pointing to the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 1907.

“Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation,” Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. “Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”

It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as “some sort of beatific action.”

I’ve always liked the man… he’s just given me more reason to do so.

Crossposted(*).

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