Behind the sharply crafted decisions of the US Supreme Court, which completed a tumultuous term on Thursday, are nine brilliant legal minds, each with strong convictions that can lead to decisions which profoundly shape American society.
Here is a look at the nine justices serving lifetime appointments on America’s highest court:
– Clarence Thomas: court’s conservative anchor –
At 74, Clarence Thomas has for years been the court’s only African-American — he will be joined next term by Ketanji Brown Jackson.
After 31 years, he is its longest serving member — and its most conservative.
Chosen for the court in 1991, he was confirmed despite explosive allegations made in televised hearings that he had sexually harassed a former assistant, Anita Hill. He stridently denied her charges, calling the experience a “high-tech lynching.”
For years, Thomas’s deep conservatism consigned him to the court’s minority.
But he is enjoying a bit of a renaissance since former president Donald Trump named three more right-leaning justices.
Last week, Thomas demonstrated that feeling when he authored a major decision which said Americans had the right to carry guns outside of their homes, despite the public favoring more gun regulations.
He was also an anchor of the majority that ruled that the US constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion, setting off bans on the procedure in many states.
Even then, he went much further than his fellow conservative justices, saying he thought the court should review the rights to contraception or same-sex marriage.
US media have revealed his wife Ginni took part in Trump-led efforts to illegally overturn the results of the November 2020 election.
Despite his wife’s involvement, Thomas did not recuse himself when Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to shield Trump documents from investigation. Instead, Thomas was the sole justice to support the petition.
– Samuel Alito, abrasive conservative –
Samuel Alito, 72 and on the court since 2006, is only slightly less conservative than Thomas, but is sharply acerbic in his views, both during hearings and in his written opinions.
In the court’s most earth-shattering ruling in June, Alito didn’t hedge his words, saying the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that declared women had guaranteed rights to abortion was “egregiously wrong.”
The Roe decision — made of course by nine other Supreme Court justices — lacked “any grounding in the constitutional text, history, or precedent,” he said.
– Neil Gorsuch, iconoclast –
As soon as he arrived at the White House in January 2017, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, praising his impeccable record as a conservative.
With his deep voice and neatly coiffed hair, the 54-year-old has adhered to expectations, aligning with other conservatives, though with one notable exception: in 2020, he brought together the court’s liberals to defend LGBTQ people against workplace…