Clarence Thomas: From 'Black Panther Type' To Supreme Court's Conservative Beacon

The longest-serving member of the current court is also its furthest to the right, least traditional, and most controversial — and with a new conservative majority, he may be having a moment.
Justice Clarence Thomas sits for an official photo with other members of the Supreme Court. Source: Saul Loeb

On the U.S. Supreme Court, where nine justices often disagree but try to meld their views into majority decisions, one justice stands out.

Clarence Thomas, the longest-serving member of the current court — and its only African American — has views that perhaps can only be described as unique.

Some court watchers, however, use other terms: idiosyncratic, eccentric, provocative, thoughtful, and yes, wacky.

"He's gone through all sorts of different ideologies in his life," observes Yale law professor Akhil Amar. "In law school, he was a Black Panther type, a black power extremist of a certain sort. Now, he defines the right wing of the United States Supreme Court."

As he has in the past, Thomas this term has charted a course that is, at times, breathtakingly different from his colleagues. While he wrote eight majority opinions for the

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