Justice Thomas: confirmation process not what it ought to be

Says justices shouldn’t become spectacle; ‘We’re not gladiators’

By Jessica Gresko
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Thursday that he believes that Congress’ process for confirming judges and others in government will discourage “some of our best people” from serving.

Speaking at an event at the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson building, directly across from the Capitol, Thomas said he doesn’t think the confirmation process “is what it ought to be.”

“I don’t think they should become spectacle. This is not the Roman Colosseum. We’re not gladiators, and I think we’re going to lose some of our best people who choose not to go through the ordeal,” he said.

Thomas added, “They don’t want to have to fight the lion in order to be a judge or to be in government and I think it’s our own fault for allowing this to happen.”

Thomas’ own 1991 confirmation was controversial, with his former employee Anita Hill accusing him of sexual harassment. Thomas denied the allegations in testimony before Congress, saying senators’ staffers had searched for “sleaze” and “dirt” about him and leaked it to the media. He was ultimately confirmed 52 to 48.

Hill’s name never came up Thursday, nor did the topic of sexual harassment. Thomas said of his confirmation: “You know I don’t have bitter feelings or anything like that.”

He said he thinks “a lot of people have second thoughts” about the confirmation process.

“I can’t tell you how many people I know who, in the middle of it, said ‘What was I thinking?’ I think that’s unfortunate,” he said.

Thomas, who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush, spent just under an hour answering questions from Judge Gregory E. Maggs, a former Thomas clerk who was recently confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Thomas said the best part of his job as a justice is interacting with his clerks. The worst part of his job is the “loss of anonymity,” said Thomas, who called himself an introvert.

He took no questions from the audience.