That quote comes from Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel for the left-wing Constitutional Accountability Center. She’s referring to last week’s unanimous Supreme Court decision in Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc., where the Court ruled that the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act does not trump a more restrictive California requirement that rear car seats have both lap and shoulder seat belts (federal law required only lap belts in rear seats). Here’s how Wydra put it:
Mazda’s request to displace state consumer-safety laws and remedies through “federal preemption” doctrine was squarely rejected by the Court. But while it wasn’t terribly surprising that the Court arrived at the correct result in Williamson, some observers might be surprised that it is Justice Clarence Thomas, in this case, whose concurring opinion explains how the Constitution establishes a system of federalism that preserves the right of states to protect the health and safety of their citizens.
This isn’t the first time Thomas’ regulatory federalism has earned praised from progressives. In Wyeth v. Levine (2009), Thomas concurred with Justice John Paul Stevens’ 6-3 decision which held that federal law did not preempt a state failure-to-warn lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company even though the drug warning label in question was approved by the Federal Drug Administration. The dissenting votes in that case came from Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. In other words, Thomas isn’t taking marching orders from anybody, on or off the Court. That’s something to keep in mind the next time some ignorant fool attacks Thomas’ intelligence or judicial independence.