Justice Thomas Doesn't Hire Jerks, Will Never Retire

Justice Thomas
By George Khoury, Esq. on May 01, 2019 12:01 PM

In a recent interview with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at Pepperdine University, the Justice discussed various topics, including religion on the High Court, his beloved clerks, and of course, he dismissed any notion that he might be retiring anytime -- ever.

When Pepperdine's incoming university president asked the Justice what he would want someone to say at his hypothetical retirement party in 20 or 30 years, Thomas immediately dismissed those dates in a swift, but joking, manner. As the Justice likely knows that simply a brief mention of a High Court retirement would set off a firestorm of sensational media reporting, he clearly stated that he had no plans to retire.

Hiring Jerks

Perhaps one of the more insightful aspects of the rather spirited talk explored Justice Thomas’s thoughts on hiring SCOTUS clerks. He seemed to provide a big tip to anyone who might apply, not just for his clerkships, but other clerkships too: Don’t be a jerk.

He flat out said: "I don't hire jerks." He also described a sign on the wall of his office that says "hang egos here" and is essentially his working mantra. From the talk, it's clear that Justice Thomas likes his clerks to be hard working people, though also seemed to stress that his selection process is completely "arbitrary." He also explained that a 16.5-hour workday (not workweek) is reasonable.

Justice Thomas Starts Every Workday Praying

It's no secret that Justice Thomas is religious, and Pepperdine being a religiously affiliated university provided a welcoming crowd to hear about some of Justice Thomas's thoughts on how religion and the High Court interact. No controversial issues or cases before the Court were discussed.

In short, the Justice explained that he and other Justices leave their religious beliefs at the door and focus on the law. Interestingly, he explained that he goes to mass before work in order to start his day "on your knees" [in prayer]. For Justice Thomas, the pre-work prayer keeps him centered and focused on his work, and what's important in life.

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