Clarence Thomas Describes His Judicial Philosophy: ‘Get It Right’

'You don't justify the outcome; you reason to the outcome'


Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made a rare television appearance Wednesday night, appearing on Fox News for a wide-ranging interview in which he discussed, in part, his judicial philosophy.

Speaking with his former law clerk Laura Ingraham on her new Fox News show, Clarence shared how he carved out his own path sitting on the high court and the process he uses to reach decisions.

Thomas dismissed the "myth," as Ingraham put it, that he was the late Justice Antonin Scalia's puppet, explaining that they "had a bond" but the Supreme Court is a place "where individuals do their work."

"People have to say what they have to say," Thomas said. "It [the Supreme Court] is a place where individuals do their work. Nobody follows the other person. Justice Scalia didn't follow me and I didn’t follow him. And I dare say nobody up there follows another person."

"I have a long history of being told what to do," he joked.

Ingraham then asked Thomas to elaborate on his judicial philosophy, noting that it is often described as "alternatively formalistic, rigid, strictly conservative."

"I think it's get it right," Thomas said. "I think we are required to reason to a conclusion. That's what we try to do."

Being a "huge" Nebraska Cornhuskers fan, Thomas used a sports analogy to explain the process he uses on the bench.

"People have a tendency in sports to be outcome oriented. You want a particular outcome, you want to win the game. If the referees make a call consistent with the outcome you prefer, then you say the referee did a great job because that referee has somehow benefited or made possible the outcome you want," Thomas said. "I think we have to be careful not to take outcomes that we want and backwash that into the process of decision making."

"You don't reach a decision and then force the process. You use a process and try to do it in a legitimate way," Thomas continued. "Again, something Justice Scalia and I agreed on. You don't justify the outcome; you reason to the outcome."

Charles Russell

Charles Russell   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Russell is a Media Analyst for the Washington Free Beacon. Before joining the Beacon he worked at America Rising and has spent several years on multiple campaigns. Charles can be reached at, his twitter handle is @charleswrussell.

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