Clarence Thomas: High Court’s Most Conservative on Crime, Punishment


In two decades as the Supreme Court’s most consistent conservative, Clarence Thomas has taken a tough approach to criminal defendants’ cases, showing a disdain for hard-luck tales of bad childhoods and a conviction that defendants accept responsibility, says USA Today. As several cases this term have shown, criminal law is one area in which Thomas is making a mark. He often writes alone, with strong rhetoric that gets attention — particularly in light of his difficult background and concern for men who took the wrong path.

Thomas “is probably the most conservative on matters related to crime and punishment, followed closely by Justice (Samuel) Alito” says Cornell law Prof. John Blume. Thomas often separates himself from fellow justices with his lack of consideration for a defendant’s plight. “Some of his opinions reveal a failure to appreciate the facts and circumstances of (a defendant’s) life,” Blume said, “and a myopic focus on the crime itself.” In one case this term, Thomas dissented from the majority view that a drug dealer’s assistance to law enforcement and later rehabilitation could lead to less prison time than U.S. sentencing guidelines dictate.

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