Donald Trump vs. Clarence Thomas

Trump loves Kelo. Justice Thomas does not.


Credit: C-SPAN

Speaking before a crowd in South Carolina this weekend, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump spoke out about his least and most favorite Supreme Court justices. As the Associated Press reports, Trump attacked Chief Justice John Roberts "while praising Associate Justice Clarence Thomas as his favorite member of the high court." As Trump put it, Thomas is "very strong and consistent."

I wonder if Trump has had a chance to read Justice Thomas' "very strong and consistent" dissenting opinion in Kelo v. City of New London, the 2005 eminent domain case in which a liberal majority led by Justice John Paul Stevens allowed a Connecticut municipality to seize people's homes and bulldoze their neighborhood so that a private developer working in cahoots with the Pfizer corporation could have a blank slate on which to operate.

Trump has of course repeatedly praised Kelo and endorsed sweeping eminent domain powers for government officials. (Trump has also sought to personally profit from eminent domain abuse.) When the conservative site Breitbart asked Trump to respond to me and other critics of his eminent domain stance, Trump doubled down on his support for Justice Stevens' disastrous Kelo decision.

Which brings us back to Clarence Thomas. In his Kelo dissent, Thomas thoroughly rejected the unconstitutional nonsense peddled by the likes of John Paul Stevens and Donald Trump. "If ever there were justification for intrusive judicial review of constitutional provisions that protect 'discrete and insular minorities,'" Thomas wrote, "surely that principle would apply with great force to the powerless groups and individuals the Public Use Clause protects. The deferential standard this Court has adopted for the Public Use Clause is therefore deeply perverse. It encourages 'those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development
firms' to victimize the weak."

Perhaps one of the moderators at tonight's GOP presidential debate will ask Trump to reconcile his support for the "wonderful" Kelo majority with his purported admiration for the justice who denounced that very majority in Kelo's strongest dissent.