Opinion: Clarence Thomas Is the new Chief Justice

Hear Clarence Thomas’ rare question in live oral arguments Editor’s Note: Jeffrey Toobin is chief legal analyst for CNN and the author of “The Nine” and “The Oath.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN. CNN — In the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency, Amy Coney Barrett won confirmation to the Supreme Court and Clarence Thomas received an equally consequential promotion – to Chief Justice of the United States. Not officially, of course. John G. Roberts, Jr., retains the title and the middle seat on the Supreme Court bench. But the Chief Justice has just one essential power that differentiates his role from that of the other Justices. The Chief has the right to assign the court’s opinions when he is in the majority. When the Chief Justice is in the minority, though, the assignment power goes to the senior Associate Justice who is in the majority. Thomas, who was confirmed in 1991, is now the longest tenured Justice on the court. More notably, he is now the leading figure among the five solid conservatives on the court – Thomas himself, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Barrett. In crucial, contested cases, Chief Justice Roberts has increasingly been voting with the three remaining liberals – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. If Roberts continues this pattern, that means Thomas will be the senior Justice in several significant 5 to 4 cases and thus enjoy the right to assign majority […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.