The University of Florida Law School has risen in respect over time and that has earned the state school a high honor: The UF Levin College of Law will have a sitting Supreme Court justice teach a course in the Spring of 2020. Justice Clarence Thomas will lead a compressed course on the First Amendment as it pertains to religious clauses.
This being controversial Justice Thomas, however, here come the voices of opposition demanding to be heard. The campus newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, ran a letter to the editor from a group of UF law students. They have formed a brand new group on campus called We Believe Survivors, and they declared this was founded in response to the welcoming of Justice Thomas. Reads a section of their letter:
“Anita Hill, 63, a woman of color and professor at Brandeis School of Law, inspired We Believe Survivors’ mission. Her courage in the face of adversity remains a beacon of strength. In 1991, she testified before Congress at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Republicans opposed her. Democrats berated her. She detailed horrific acts of sexual misconduct perpetrated against her by her former boss, Thomas. Her words were not enough to change the minds of lawmakers, and Thomas was confirmed.”
None of this is at all influenced by Thomas’ episode three decades ago, nor his appearance. These are students complaining about an incident that predates their birth, so any outrage here has to be muted to a degree. OK, credit to them for at least reading some of the details behind the confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas. However, these are law students, and as such they should have at least a grasp of the basics of law and courtroom procedure.
Anita Hill’s allegations were not what can be called conclusive. She had never lodged a complaint about Judge Thomas prior to the confirmation. There was no corroboration from others, quotes she attributed to Thomas were found to be cribbed from popular culture, and her claims of being distraught and distrustful were contradicted by documentation that she was in regular contact with Thomas and sought out his support, which she had received. Her declarations of being set back were in contrast to her being helped along. The group however is operating on pure faith. “Levin administration either doesn’t believe Hill, or doesn’t care if her accusations are true. Both of those possibilities are unacceptable.”
How can they declare definitively that Hill’s accusations were “true”. Essentially, the evidence contradicted her testimony. Law students should have a grasp of the significance of this, as well as one other legal precept: presumption of innocence. Thomas is being declared “guilty” without a preponderance of evidence. Not only is reasonable doubt in play, it is unreasonable to state Anita Hill was accurate.
One member of this new group did allude to the possible contradiction of their outrage not being modulated by the legal evidence. Dalia Figurado told Law.com that they were not effectively trying Justice Thomas as a guilty party. “It’s about holding our administration accountable and for them to acknowledge the concerns students may have.” So even if their outrage is misplaced, and not supported by facts, the concerns of the students take priority over the result.
In other words, their feelings outweigh the legal findings. It’s a good thing these students are still in school. They seem to have plenty left to learn about the law.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.