WASHINGTON (AP) — Last week, as he marked his 74th birthday, Clarence Thomas achieved two long-sought goals: expanding gun rights and overturning Roe v. Wade ’s nationwide protection for abortion.
If he was ready to take a victory lap, Thomas didn’t let on. Instead, he called on his colleagues to do more, to revisit the Supreme Court’s cases acknowledging rights to same-sex marriage, gay sex and contraception.
After 30 years on the court, Thomas’ influence has never been greater, and yet he remains a lightning rod for controversy. That includes recent questions about his wife’s role in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election and his decision not to recuse himself from cases that involved it. Thomas has said nothing in response to the criticism, and he could still serve another decade or more, racking up additional victories with a court that has become more conservative.
“If you serve long enough sometimes things go your way eventually,” said Ohio Northern University professor Scott Gerber, the author of a book on Thomas. Gerber said that at this point there are people who have moved through the conservative legal movement, studying conservatives like Thomas and the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who have now joined Thomas on the court. “They’ve learned from him and agree,” he said.
Thomas is now the senior member of a group of conservative justices with the votes to control the court, not only what cases the court takes on but how broadly it rules. That’s a change for Thomas, whose views were for years seen as far out of the mainstream.
”He’s always been known as not taking quite the same approach,” said George Mason University law professor Jennifer Mascott, who worked for Thomas as a law clerk. But in the guns case, she…