Justice Thomas Defends Citizens United

The NYT reports on recent by remarks by Justice Clarence Thomas at the Stetson University College of Law in which he responded to criticism of the Court’s Citizens United ruling.  In addition to defending the underlying rationale of the ruling, he also addressed the Tillman Act — the federal law barring corporate campaign contributions, which was not at issue in the case — and the role of precedent.

“Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation,” Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. “Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”

It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as “some sort of beatific action.” . . .

Asked about his attitude toward the two decisions overruled in Citizens United, he said, “If it’s wrong, the ultimate precedent is the Constitution.”

Justice Thomas also explained his absence at the State of the Union.

“I don’t go because it has become so partisan and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there,” he said, adding that “there’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV — the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.”

“One of the consequences,” he added in an apparent reference to last week’s address, “is now the court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.”