Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks Candidly at Heritage Event and to Future Leaders


Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks Candidly at Heritage Event and to Future Leaders

Dec 16, 2016

“There’s always hope,” Justice Clarence Thomas said at The Heritage Foundation’s Joseph Story Distinguished Lecture in October. “But this city is broken in some ways.” 

Speaking candidly before an audience of more than 200 guest in Heritage’s Allison Auditorium, Thomas shared his views on the Supreme Court nomination process, which will play a prominent role in 2017 when President-elect Donald Trump names his nominee. 

It was one of many insights Thomas discussed at Heritage—one of his only public events to mark his 25 years on the Supreme Court. The annual event was part of Heritage’s Preserve the Constitution series. 

Thomas also met with each one of Heritage's interns in the Young Leaders Program after the event and answered their questions separately. 

Both experiences served as a highlight for Heritage this year—especially given the admiration Thomas has earned among conservative legal scholars. 


“We need judges who will be faithful to the rule of law and to the constitution itself if we are going to preserve self government and liberty to the people of this country,” said Edwin Meese, former U.S. attorney general and Heritage’s Ronald Reagan distinguished fellow emeritus, as he introduced Thomas. 

“At no time in our history in my mind has this been more important as a concept and more important as something to be defended as it is at the present time.” 

Over 200 law professors, former law clerks, Heritage members and other bright legal minds were in attendance. Multiple media outlets reported on the event and it was aired live on C-SPAN. 

Thomas was the first honored guest for the Joseph Story lecture to give his remarks in a conversational format rather than in formal remarks. 


“It was certainly a thrill for me to get an opportunity to interview Justice Thomas and spend time with him and to have him be as gregarious and forthcoming as he was,” said John Malcolm, director of Heritage’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and the Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson senior legal fellow. 

In addition to talking about how he writes his opinions and understanding the Constitution, Thomas spoke openly about his relationship and the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. He also spoke about his summer road trips with his wife and the people they meet along the way

“It was a memorable evening. Justice Thomas was at ease and not particularly guarded. You were hearing the man’s honest views on these issues,” said Malcolm. 

Previous Joseph Story Distinguished Lectures have been delivered by Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Judge Robert H. Bork, professor John Harrison, Judge A. Raymond Randolph, Judge Alice M. Batchelder, Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, and Judge Carlos T. Bea.