Clarence Thomas quietly works the phones to get his protege a court seat


Clarence Thomas isn't shy about picking up the phone to make sure a former clerk gets a job. He's even shameless enough to call on U.S. senators.

Justice Clarence Thomas has been working the phones to get his former clerk Neomi Rao a slot on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. It's a startling move, even from a justice that doesn't believe rules apply to him.

By any measure, Neomi Rao is utterly awful. She believes it is a woman's fault if she gets raped, she loves gutting regulations, and she thinks sexual and racial oppression is a myth. And, because of these things, her nomination is utterly in keeping with the goals of this administration.

But she apparently didn't initially appear sufficiently anti-choice for at least one senator, Josh Hawley (R-MO). It was a curious stance for Hawley, given that Rao's record of undermining reproductive freedom is pretty solid. In her current job as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, she worked on rules like barring health care providers that perform abortions from receiving federal funds. But Hawley was wobbly, so Thomas and friends swung into action.

First, a former clerk of Thomas, Carrie Severino, went after Hawley. Her group, Judicial Crisis Network, threated a $500,000 ad buy against him in Missouri if he didn't vote for Rao. Next, Thomas took a call from Hawley, presumably to soothe Hawley's ruffled anti-abortion feathers. Thomas also called Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) to share his "positive experience" with Rao.

Thomas' efforts with Hawley paid off, as Rao's nomination made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now it's on to the full Senate, where she will, depressingly, likely be confirmed.

It's not a secret that Thomas has no real regard for judicial norms or ethics. He routinely refuses to recuse himself from cases even when it is clear he has conflicts. His wife, conservative gadfly Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, traded on her name to get an audience with Trump, and she used that time to talk about a matter — the transgender troop ban — that was pending before the Supreme Court.

With all that, it shouldn't be so surprising that Thomas so nakedly uses his power to lean on senators to lock down votes for his former clerk, but somehow it still is.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.