Preserving the Constitution
Clarence Thomas leaps from his chair. He retrieves a wire coat hanger from his closet for a demonstration — the same demonstration he gives his law clerks. He bends it and says: “How do you compensate? So, you say well, deal with it. Bend this over here. Oh, wait a minute, bend it a little bit there. And you’re saying that it throws everything out of whack. What do you do?”
He holds up a twisted wire, useless now for its original purpose and the point is made. “If you notice sometimes I will write just to point out that I think that we’ve gone down a track that’s going to cause some distortion, then it’s quite precisely because of that. I don’t do things that I think are illegitimate in other areas, just to bend it back to compensate for what’s already happened.”
Interpreting the Constitution is the Supreme Court’s most important and most difficult task. An even harder question is how to approach a Constitution that, in fact, is no longer in pristine form — with the Framers’ design having been warped over the years by waves of judicial mischief. There is an obvious temptation to redress the imbalance, which Associate Justice Thomas decisively rejects. Thus his coat hanger metaphor.