Opinion | The Court and the Cross – by Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer

March 14, 2019, 165
Image: The cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., is the subject of a Supreme Court case.
Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., is the subject of a Supreme Court case.CreditCreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Even before last month’s Supreme Court argument, the smart-money consensus was that those challenging the Latin cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., would lose. Without debating that prediction, I want to make an obvious but, so far, underappreciated point: It really matters how the American Humanist Association and the other nonreligious plaintiffs lose.

If the justices permit the ultimate symbol of Christianity to remain, towering over other structures at the junction of two major roads, what theory will they use?

Will they say that even if such an object would be unconstitutional if erected today, this one should be grandfathered because it was put up by local citizens as a World War I memorial and stood without controversy for most of the ensuing 93 years?

Will the justices decide, as one lawyer, Neal Katyal, insisted in defense of the cross, that despite its origin as the centerpiece of Christian theology, a cross designated a war memorial acquires “an independent secular meaning?” (The Supreme Court’s leading precedent requires that in order not to violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, a government display of a religious symbol must have a “secular legislative purpose.”)”

Opinion | Family Ties at the Supreme Court – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

Ginni Thomas at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2017. She recently met with President Trump to discuss why transgender people shouldn’t serve in the military.

By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer

Jan. 31, 2019, 231 c

“Let Ginni be Ginni.

That was my first thought upon seeing the headline in The Times this past weekend: “Trump Meets With Hard-Right Group Led by Ginni Thomas.” Ginni Thomas — or Virginia Lamp, as I knew her years ago when she was a smart lawyer-lobbyist working for the United States Chamber of Commerce against passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act — is married to the Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

These days, she is also an activist on the far-right fringe of the Republican Party. In recent months, she has denounced the student survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting who are campaigning for gun control as “dangerous to the survival of our nation” (in a later deleted Facebook post). In a speech bestowing an award on Sean Hannity, the Fox News personality, she warned fellow conservatives against being “complicit as the left moves its forces across the country.” According to the Times account of last week’s White House meeting, to which she brought fellow members of a group called Groundswell, the topics discussed included why women and transgender people should not be permitted to serve in the military and how same-sex marriage is damaging the country.

It hardly needs saying that modern families are complicated. A few administrations ago, it was tempting to conclude that presidential siblings had an unusual proclivity for getting into embarrassing scrapes. The day when wives of powerful men were expected to do little more than serve tea and look decorative has, thankfully, passed. “We have our separate professional lives,” Ms. Thomas said during the 2000 presidential election stalemate, when asked about her work for the Heritage Foundation compiling résumés for a potential Bush administration while the Supreme Court was deciding the outcome of the election. (She said her effort was bipartisan.)

But while my feminist sensibilities make me wary of suggesting that Ginni Thomas should not be completely free to embrace her causes and live her life, there’s something troublesome about the unbounded nature of her public advocacy, at least for those of us who still care about the Supreme Court. It’s hard to think of a more delicate moment for the court, pressed at every turn by an administration that seems to regard it as a wholly owned subsidiary of the White House and that has driven the normally reticent chief justice to declare, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges.” Chief Justice John Roberts did not say “justices.” He didn’t have to. The question now is whether his colleagues on the bench — his own and all the others — will show him to be right, or sadly naïve.”

Lovely piece by Linda Greenhouse. Here is my favorit comment as far as I read them:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

“It’s hard to think of a more delicate moment for the court, pressed at every turn by an administration that seems to regard it as a wholly owned subsidiary of the White House and that has driven the normally reticent chief justice to declare, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges.”” Yes, Ginni Thomas seems to have only broken laws of good taste, but consider that within the growing body of evidence that “norms-busting” is threatening our social fabric. Civility and propriety have gone missing in our politics, media, and culture. I’m beginning to wonder if America as we knew it before Mr. Trump foisted himself 24/7 on our national consciousness will ever return? My problem with Ginni Thomas is the double standard that Congress and media consensus seems to apply to behavior that gets condoned in Republicans who would never allow the same if done by Democrats. Ms. Greenhouse says, let “Ginni be Ginni.” But when this opinionated lawyer-lobbyist throws herself at the White House, espousing religious and judicial views she has no business pushing, I think the American public deserve to know why. Because of her husband, Ginni grabs access to the president none of us have, despite our own strong views on the subject of civil liberties for all. Maybe she broke no rules in the strictest legal sense, but she sure has broken the boundaries of fairness.

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
Image
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.”

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.