Opinion | The Power of Supreme Court Choices – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

Linda Greenhouse
By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer

Dec. 6, 2018, 252
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President Bush and Barbara Bush with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at his swearing-in ceremony in 1991.CreditCreditDirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Image

“It’s not hard for a new president, in concert with Congress, to erase a predecessor’s legislative, regulatory and diplomatic accomplishments. It’s a president’s Supreme Court legacy that lasts.

Many retrospectives on the life of President George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday, noted that one of the two men he named to the court, Clarence Thomas, is now in his 27th year as a justice and, at age 70, is on track to become one of the longest-serving Supreme Court justices in history.

Justice David H. Souter, who in 1990 became President Bush’s first Supreme Court appointee, has received much less attention in recent days, perhaps because he retired nine years ago and has avoided the spotlight ever since. The soft-spoken New Hampshire judge never became a lightning rod except to those on the right who, while thrilling to Justice Thomas’s hard-edge originalism, were sorely vexed by Justice Souter’s modestly progressive jurisprudence. While one became an icon, the other became the object of a negative mantra: “No more Souters.”

My goal here is not to appraise the two Bush 41 justices. It’s to compare the approaches — one conciliatory, the other, confrontational — that in the space of a single year (July 1990 to July 1991) produced such different nominees. Those approaches remain today as contrasting archetypes for how to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.”

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Opinion | Is Clarence Thomas the Supreme Court’s Future? – by Linda Greenhouse – NYT

A month ago, ThinkProgress published an essay by Ian Millhiser with the title “Clarence Thomas Is the Most Important Legal Thinker in America.” I did a double take. How could the estimable Mr. Millhiser sign his name to such an exaggerated claim? But his argument was not that Justice Thomas, who recently turned 70, is winning victories today, but that he is paving the way for victories down the road — and perhaps not all that far down the road. Observing that 20 percent of Trump-appointed appeals court judges are Justice Thomas’s former law clerks, Mr. Millhiser wrote, “Thomas lost the war for the present, but he is the future of legal conservatism.”So no, the court’s future is not already here, not yet. Those of us on the progressive side of the street are unlikely to look back on Justice Kennedy’s final term with nostalgia. But soon enough, we may decide that it was the best we’re going to see for a long time.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.Linda Greenhouse, the winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, writes on alternate Thursdays about the Supreme Court and the law. She reported on the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008, and is the author of several books.