Thomas cites historic cases in dedication

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Calling the building "inspiring" and its namesake a "trailblazer," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas dedicated the new Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse with a short speech beneath the gaze of the historic statue of Lady Justice.

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People linger outside the new Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse after Wednesday's dedication. ceremony.   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
People linger outside the new Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse after Wednesday's dedication. ceremony.

Thomas, 62, seemed to reference the century-old copper statue as he noted that in decades past, there were two sets of laws -- one for whites, one for blacks -- which upset the delicate balance of justice.

"I hold fast to that simple promise described on the gleaming marble above the Supreme Court of the United States -- equal justice under law," he said. "That is the promise that this building represents and the ideal to which Judge Ruffin devoted himself and to which I daresay that many of us devoted themselves. To balance the scales."

As he did Tuesday night in a speech to the Augusta Bar Association, Thomas seemed to defend himself against criticism of his conservative judicial record and stance against affirmative action programs.

"We can only hope that this courthouse will always be a place of refuge from the shifting tides of interests and that judges who sit here will always be duty bound to no interest except the impartial application and interpretation of our law and our Constitution," he said.

To uphold justice, judges must often make decisions that pit them against an angry public they serve, Thomas said.

He referenced the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case that legalized segregation under the doctrine of "separate but equal" and he recalled the threats many judges received after the Supreme Court overturned the case with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, declaring unconstitutional laws permitting racial segregation in the country's public schools.

Thomas said upholding the rule of law requires "the courage to act with principle and firmness."

"When, as in Plessy, a court distorts the law to achieve a particular outcome, not only does the court cause injustice in the case before it, but it damages the very concept of the rule of law and the fabric of society is indelibly stained."

At one point, Thomas seemed to allude to his own views on affirmative action, citing his family's history with segregation while growing up in the Pin Point, Ga., community near Savannah.

"In the days of segregation, with barely concealed anger and exasperation, my grandfather longed for a day when there would be only one set of books for all citizens, one set of laws," Thomas said. "Sadly, even today, when rights are no longer determined ultimately by race, some expect that race should still determine a person's ideas or ideology. And though the libraries and schools are no longer off limits based on race, certain ideas available there are off limits for those reasons."

Like Thomas, John H. Ruffin's widow, Judith, received a standing ovation from the crowd, which included the city's judicial and political elite and many workers from the nearby courthouse.

With weather that Thomas noted was much cooler than the Georgia May he expected, the ceremony proceeded smoothly until a woman in the crowd collapsed during Richmond County Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet's introduction.

Drawing gasps from those around her and concerned looks from Thomas, the woman was quickly helped up by a medical crew after having apparently fainted.

What they said

- "When our fellow citizens interact with our legal system, they primarily do so in local and state courthouses, much like the one we dedicate today. This building is where the abstract ideal of the rule of law becomes reality. In the life of a typical citizen of Augusta the most meaningful due process of law will be the process provided in this courtroom. The inspiring architecture of this building reflects its noble purpose. I believe that courthouses should be majestic. Not as tribute to judges and lawyers ... within but as a reminder and a challenge to them to serve the highest ideals of law in our society."

-- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

- "I believe that this area of the city, due to this project ... is literally going to be transformed in years to come and that this significant investment will serve as a catalyst toward that." -- Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver

- On Justice Thomas:"Service on the nation's highest court is not without controversy. In fact, controversy often swirls around the work of all courts. Courts are called upon to make controversial decisions. If there were not controversy, there would be no courts." -- Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet

- On John H. Ruffin Jr.: "Truly he was a warrior for justice." -- Judge Carl C. Brown

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Sweet son
11648
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Sweet son 05/18/11 - 10:36 am
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"Build it and they will

"Build it and they will come." sic And they did but couldn't find a parking space.

mary.dits
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mary.dits 05/18/11 - 11:54 am
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such truths were spoken as:

such truths were spoken as: i'm confident everyone in augusta is thankful for the efforts to bring justice thomas here, our schools don't produce the best students in the world, we don't have the best health coverage, this country would never lock people up without due process, the government never takes property without paying, we have unwavering faith in our judicial system, every person is treated equally; so, yeah, continuing our impartiality in the new courthouse is a fitting statement. i guess my favorite part was when clarence thomas gave a shout out to mayor copenhaven.

AutumnLeaves
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AutumnLeaves 05/18/11 - 12:35 pm
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There was plenty of parking.

There was plenty of parking. I could have parked a lot closer. Nice ceremony, only problem was a short interruption when a woman passed out and fell flat back unto the bricks (that was a horrible sound), but thankfully, she was helped quickly, an ambulance was nearby.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
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Crime Reports and Rewards TV 05/18/11 - 12:45 pm
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Justice Thomas did U.S.

Justice Thomas did U.S. proud.

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 05/18/11 - 12:45 pm
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don't stand with locked

don't stand with locked knees, people.

showboat
369
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showboat 05/18/11 - 01:03 pm
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Great job Justice
Unpublished

Great job Justice Thomas!!!!!!Proud, Proud!!!!!

Batman
18
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Batman 05/18/11 - 02:07 pm
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Justice Thomas is a great

Justice Thomas is a great man...

AutumnLeaves
10255
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AutumnLeaves 05/18/11 - 03:10 pm
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mary.dits, I wondered if she

mary.dits, I wondered if she might have been standing with locked knees. Seemed to be the heat though, in her case, she was standing in direct sunlight in the middle of the crowd, so it might have gotten a bit hot for her there. I noticed a lot of people were fanning themselves with their programs, even though they were seated.

mary.dits
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mary.dits 05/18/11 - 03:45 pm
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yeah it did get hot. i'm not

yeah it did get hot. i'm not blaming the victim, just putting out a public service message. i hope she's ok. you couldn't hope for quicker help.

Pu239
284
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Pu239 05/18/11 - 08:35 pm
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mary regarding your
Unpublished

mary regarding your 1254.....so where are you going that has all of your "dream" features?

capmotion
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capmotion 05/19/11 - 06:05 am
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Of course, the problem with

Of course, the problem with the Supreme Court does not have to do with the mutual courtliness of the justices, but with the question of whether the court is serving its intended role of protecting individuals from overweening government and of patroling the boundary lines of the Constitution to rein in government. And it is not. It is an aggressively statist organization defaulting increasingly in the direction of power and against liberty, and Justice Thomas, the most faithful originalist on the court, should not pretend that genteelness among the members is more important than faithfulness to the Framers.

Techfan
6462
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Techfan 05/19/11 - 08:31 am
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Note that Thomas is now

Note that Thomas is now trying to cover his rear end for not disclosing his wife's income for at least 13 years. Simply a felony, but he seemed to forget, or not understand the form (evidently above the head of a Supreme Court Justice). Now he's trying to amend the forms. Of course, if he had disclosed the conflict of interest, he would have had to recuse himself from numerous cases (including Citizens United).

wondersnevercease
9218
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wondersnevercease 05/19/11 - 08:34 am
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LOL tech he is in fine
Unpublished

LOL tech he is in fine company.....can we say timothy?

Techfan
6462
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Techfan 05/19/11 - 08:44 am
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Care to list the court cases

Care to list the court cases in which Geithner has cast the deciding vote?

wondersnevercease
9218
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wondersnevercease 05/19/11 - 05:18 pm
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conservatives...bad.....liber
Unpublished

conservatives...bad.....liberals good.....lol...

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