The Thomas Court


The Thomas Court


Leonard Zwelling

Before some of my conservative readers call me a knee-jerk liberal, watch the Frontline documentary on Clarence and Ginni Thomas. It’s free and available on youTube. The link is above.

The film spans Clarence Thomas’ entire life from his poor upbringing in rural Georgia to his years in a Catholic seminary, to Holy Cross as an undergraduate, and on to Yale Law School.

If Justice Thomas is a bitter man, and this documentary suggests that both he and his wife are resentful because of their pasts, it is totally understandable. He suffered humiliating indignity throughout his life because of the color of his skin while his current wife (he had one before Ginni) was raised in an extreme right-wing family in Omaha before going to Washington and rising in Republican circles, particularly as the GOP has moved further and further to the right—the place Ginni Thomas always occupied. You see, her parents were avowed John Birchers. And she worshiped Phyllis Schlafly.

By contrast, at one point in his life, Justice Thomas identified with Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, but eventually his rigid Catholic upbringing derepressed and he became very conservative. He led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where he encountered Anita Hill.

What this film does so effectively is sketch the childhood experiences of these two powerful insiders and demonstrates that it is not they who have changed, but the Republican Party that has, first under Ronald Reagan (hard right) and then in the era of Donald Trump (MAGA right, although “make America great again” was a Reagan line).

It makes some additional points of great import.

Through a series of in-depth interviews with friends of Clarence and Ginni Thomas it shows how they ascended to power, how the most likely conclusion of the Thomas Senate confirmation hearings is that Anita Hill (not Thomas) was telling the truth (some of her stories were echoed by other women and even a man friend of Thomas), and that when it comes to opinions and ethics, Justice Thomas will plot his own course and that despite their denial, the Thomas’ are in everything together. There is no way he shouldn’t have recused himself from decisions about January 6 given his wife’s presence in the crowd and her texting to Mark Meadows.

This film is not a hit job. It clearly depicts how brilliant Thomas is, how hard he worked, how much discrimination he tolerated, and why exactly he asks few questions during Supreme Court proceedings. This is a valuable insight into two Americans whose influence has been powerful, especially in recent years, and who will continue to affect the rulings of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future.

Clarence Thomas and Ginni Thomas are not dangerous because of what they believe or what they do. They are dangerous because they cannot be influenced by anyone except each other. Some people find this frightening, but watch the film. No one gave these people anything. You may not like it, but they earned it.

Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:,

on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle,


directly from the publisher Dorrance at:

4 thoughts on “The Thomas Court”

  1. You just got me interested in seeing the documentary.
    Childhood experiences define so much of one’s character. Too often, prejudices are baked into the mind early. The brilliance of any individual, however, is to be self aware enough to recognize one’s biases and weaknesses in addition to one’s strengths. Without deep self awareness, one is likely to lead a life that is not quite what it could be in a moral and ethical sense. And, frankly childhood experience should not be the eventual excuse for misbehaving as an adult.
    As I approach this film, the question to be answered for me is: does either Clarence or Ginni have real self awareness?

    1. Leonard Zwelling

      Excellent question. Not sure this film will answer this for either. In his case, was Anita Hill wrong or is he really a porno junkie as others attested to in the film. In her case, she was bred on conspiracy theories. Why stop now?

  2. Addendum to my earlier comments: With a wife as a psychiatrist, I have become sensitive to how early life traumas may create disordered behavior in later life. Clarence and Ginni are smart but so mixed up emotionally by their past. I hope that both have had some professional therapy. Otherwise, their last years of life may be miserable.

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