In an announcement that will elicit gigantic sighs of relief from conservatives across the nation, last weekend Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told attendees at a Pepperdine University School of Law dinner that he has no intention of retiring.
As The Washington Free Beacon reports, Thomas was asked which person he would want to speak at his retirement party 20 years from now. Thomas answered bluntly, “I’m not retiring.” As Law360.com noted, the moderator, who was Professor James Allan Gash, Pepperdine’s incoming president, according to The Daily Caller, pressed Thomas, altering the date of the party to 30 years from now, prompting Thomas, who will be 71 in June, to laugh and respond, “Nope.”
Rumors of Thomas’ retirement have been rife in recent months; CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin speculated in The New Yorker magazine in February:
The more complex drama involves Clarence Thomas, who is seventy years old and the longest-tenured Associate Justice on the Court. With fifty-three Republicans now in the Senate (and no filibusters allowed on Supreme Court nominations), President Trump would have a free hand in choosing a dream candidate for his conservative base if Thomas were to retire this year. The summer of 2019 would seem an ideal time to add a third younger conservative to the Court (along with Neil Gorsuch, who is fifty-one, and Brett Kavanaugh, who is fifty-four). It’s true that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, would likely violate his Merrick Garland rule and try to push through a nominee in 2020, an election year, but 2019 would be much easier to navigate. So, many conservatives are asking, why shouldn’t Thomas leave now?
Nine days later, CNN followed up with a article titled, “Is Clarence Thomas headed out or just getting started?” It huffed, “[Thomas’s remarks] even reignited a whispering campaign among progressives that the 70-year-old justice is preparing to retire. The thinking goes that he had launched the opinion—joined by no other justice—as a kind of last salvo as he prepared to relinquish his seat to a younger Trump nominee.”
The Guardian wrote last summer:
Breyer and Ginsburg are both Democrat-nominated judges but there’s a small chance that we could see a retirement on the Republican-nominated side. Clarence Thomas, while relatively young at 70, has already served for 26 years, just one less than the average and four less than the recent retiree Kennedy. So it’s entirely reasonable that Thomas believes he’s served his time. If he decided this on Trump’s watch, the Republicans, while they wouldn’t gain a seat on the conservative side, would be able to lock another seat down with a younger judge.
As far back as 2016, The Washington Examiner wrote, “Justice Clarence Thomas, a reliable conservative vote on the Supreme Court, is mulling retirement after the presidential election, according to court watchers. Thomas, appointed by former President George H.W. Bush and approved by the Senate after a bitter confirmation, has been considering retirement for a while and never planned to stay until he died, they said. He likes to spend summers in his RV with his wife.”
Thomas’ wife Ginni responded, “For all those who are contacting me about the possibility of my husband retiring, I say — unsubscribe from those false news sources and carry on with your busy lives. IT. IS. BOGUS!”