U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been noted as the driving force behind a legal concept applied in two recent rulings regarding Article III of the U.S Constitution.
In 2016, Thomas stated in Spokeo Inc v. Robins that “courts should reframe how they think about plaintiffs’ right to sue under Article III of the Constitution to focus on whether lawsuits seek to vindicate private or public rights,” according to Reuters.
His theory has found use in rulings on Article III from the 6th and 11th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals.
Thomas the Innovator
Judge Kevin Newsom of the 11th Circuit said in a May 6 concurrence in Sierra v. City of Hallandale Beach. He noted “My approach also resembles the rights-based approach advanced by Justice Thomas and others, including my colleague Judge Jordan.”
“The rights-based approach moves in the right direction,” Newsom also wrote. “An Article III ‘case’ exists if, and whenever, the plaintiff has a cause of action – including under any statutory provision authorizing suit in federal court to vindicate the violation of a legal right.”
Judge Richard Suhrheinrich wrote on Tuesday “There is a groundswell of support for Justice Thomas‘s perspective that Article III standing distinguishes between privateand public rights,” in a 6th Circuit’s ruling in Thomas v. Toms King (Ohio) LLC.
Thomas has served on the court since 1991. He was appointed by former President George H.W. Bush to the lifetime post as the second Black Supreme Court justice in U.S. history.
The justice is now the longest-serving among the nine justices, as well as the second oldest.
Thomas the Conservative
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the court moved to a teleconference format. Thomas became a vocal spokesperson, involved in 67 online cases.
According to Reuters, “Thomas occasionally joined in moments of levity such as when a lawyer in a March argument mistakenly addressed him, rather than John Roberts, as the chief justice.”
Thomas has also been in the spotlight recently for his comments on social media. He has suggested groups like Facebook and Twitter should be treated as utilities, offering expanded free speech rights for all individuals.
“[I]t stands to reason that if Congress may demand that telephone companies operate as common carriers, it can ask the same of cable operators” – might apply also to “digital platforms,” he wrote.