GAINESVILLE, Fla. — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas this week told
Florida law students that corporations and unions have a First Amendment right
to spend money on political candidates, and he said some criticism of the high
court goes too far.
Thomas spoke Feb. 2 at Stetson University and defended the Supreme Court's
recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations and unions
can spend freely from their treasuries to run political ads for or against
specific candidates. They are still prohibited from contributing directly to
"I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it
were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company," Thomas said,
according to a report in The New York Times. "These are
Thomas voted with the majority last month in the 5-4 decision. The ruling
earned a public scolding from President Obama during his State of the Union
address last week. Although Thomas did not directly address the flap over
Obama's remarks, he told Stetson students he wasn't there to hear them in
"I don't go because it has become so partisan and it's very uncomfortable for
a judge to sit there," he said. "There's a lot that you don't hear on TV — the
catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments," he
In an appearance yesterday at the University of Florida law school, Thomas
said that questioning of the Supreme Court and other government branches needed
to stay within the range of fair criticism or "run the risk in our society of
undermining institutions that we need to preserve our liberties." Thomas said
some comments he hears about the Court "border on being irresponsible."
Thomas said the Court's rulings should be questioned, but said he was
bothered by some rhetoric conveying "the idea of assigning ulterior motives to
opinions that people don't agree with, rather than saying simply that the Court
doesn't agree with my argument."
"There are different approaches, because we start with different assumptions.
Or we look at things differently," he said. "And I think law school should
encourage you that these differences are acceptable in our legal system. And in
the end, it is what strengthens and informs our legal system."
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens
United, generally sidestepped questions at Pepperdine University in
California Feb. 3 about the case and the president's criticism of it, according
to the Los Angeles Times.
"Does Justice Kennedy feel scolded?" one audience questioner asked.
"He doesn't," Kennedy replied.