A dozen members of the Federalist Society’s chapter at Catholic University’s law school enjoyed a lengthy meeting and personal conversation with United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas on Jan. 19. It was the second consecutive year the justice has granted an audience to students from the Columbus School of Law.
Meeting with the students in the Supreme Court building, Justice Thomas spoke for half an hour about a wide range of topics, sharing his thoughts on the current state of legal education, the importance of debating issues openly, his intellectual formation during his time at a Catholic seminary, and the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The justice didn’t seem to mind straying off of legal topics and into cultural and personal territory, also discussing the satisfactions of touring the country by motorhome and his passion for the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team.
“Throughout the morning, we were all struck by Justice Thomas’s warmth and humor, his contrarian libertarian streak, and his courageous willingness to defy conventional wisdom and ignore criticism from the media,” said Roger V. Abbott, president of the Federalist Society at The Catholic University of America.
Justice Thomas, who has served on the nation’s high court since his nomination by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, is himself a former member of the Federalist Society.
The organization was launched by in 1982 as a student organization that challenged what its members perceived as the orthodox American liberal ideology found in most law schools. Among its founding principles is the idea that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be."
The society’s perspective on the law has powerful support on the Supreme Court, where justices Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts, and Samuel Alito have also counted themselves as members.