Wednesday, October 13, 2021

New clerk Crystal Clanton has a history of posting racist statements, making one wonder if Bill Pryor, her boss-to-be, even believes in equal justice for all

Crystal Clanton (right), with Clarence and Ginni Thomas

U.S. 11th Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, from Alabama, has hired a law clerk with a documented history of making hateful statements about Black people via text messages. But a columnist for The Washington Post (WaPo) suggests such comments likely would disqualify the new hire, Crystal Clanton, from even entering law school or joining a bar association, much less receiving a prestigious federal clerkship. Writes WaPo's Ruth Marcus (subscription required for full article):

Indeed, there is a reasonable question about whether someone who has expressed these views and not apologized should be admitted to law school, let alone the bar; after all, state bars generally require evidence of good moral character.

In Virginia, where Clanton attends law school, that includes any “conduct that reflects adversely upon the character or fitness of an applicant,” although in making that assessment bar officials take into account the applicant’s age at the time of the conduct and “evidence of rehabilitation.”

Did Pryor know of Clanton’s texts before he hired her? Do her comments concern him? If not, why not? I put those questions to Pryor by email. I haven’t heard back.

The whole story is ugly, but it probably says more about Pryor than it does about Clanton, Marcus writes:

And this is the truly worrisome part of the Clanton story: that a sitting federal judge is credentialing someone with this kind of hateful statement in her background, and perhaps grooming her for a post that’s even more important, a Supreme Court clerkship.

It gives me no pleasure to focus on Clanton, who did not respond to requests for comment. I have daughters her age, one of whom happens to be in law school. We all do stupid things when we are young, and some of us do terrible things. We should allow some space for repentance and forgiveness.

But there is no evidence of repentance here, and her reported comments are astonishing in their savagery. This is not a case of a racial slur directed in anger at a single individual — not that such conduct would be in any way acceptable. This is even worse: animus expressed toward an entire race.

Nor was this an isolated outburst. The year after the New Yorker story, the website Mediaite, reporting on Clanton’s hiring by Ginni Thomas, described a Snapchat message featuring “a photo of a man who appears to be Arab and a caption written by Clanton that reads, ‘Just thinking about ways to do another 9/11.’”

Someone who writes such things would not be hired in my private-sector workplace or most others, unless I miss my guess. Moreover, judicial clerkships are federal positions, paid for by taxpayer dollars, where dispensing equal justice under the law is job one.

And federal judges are called on to interpret and enforce the law impartially. Ask yourself: How do Black litigants — or Black lawyers — with cases before Pryor have confidence of a fair ruling in their cases with a clerk with Clanton’s record waiting in chambers? How do litigants in employment discrimination or voting rights cases have confidence that they will be treated equally in his court?

Marcus correctly notes that "dispensing equal justice under the law is job one" for the federal judiciary -- at least it's supposed to be. But Pryor's hiring of Crystal Clanton makes one wonder if he even believes in equal justice or seeks to apply it.

No wonder he is avoiding questions from journalists.

To make the story even more alarming, much of it seems to run through U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni. Writes Marcus:

For a graduating law student, a clerkship with a federal appeals court judge is a glittering credential. With the right judge, it can be a steppingstone to the most sought-after credential of all, a clerkship at the Supreme Court itself. One of those reliable “feeder” judges is William H. Pryor Jr., chief judge of the 11th Circuit and on Donald Trump’s original shortlist for the Supreme Court.

Pryor has just selected his next crop of law clerks, including Crystal Clanton of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, a development first reported by the legal website Above the Law.

Clanton, 26, is Pryor’s first clerk from Scalia, according to a list published by the school, but she is notable for another reason: racist comments she appears to have made years ago when working for the conservative youth group Turning Point USA.

I hate black people. Like f--- them all … I hate blacks. End of story,” Clanton, then the group’s national field director, wrote in a text message to a fellow Turning Point employee unearthed by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer in 2017. (Her version was unexpurgated.)

In an email to Mayer then, Clanton wrote, “I have no recollection of these messages and they do not reflect what I believe or who I am and the same was true when I was a teenager.” It’s not clear how old Clanton was when she wrote the text.

Clanton left Turning Point right after Mayer’s story appeared, and ended up working for conservative activist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whom she had met while at Turning Point.

Pryor has sent on law clerks to every conservative justice except Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and most of those have worked for Thomas, who over the years has selected an astonishing 13 Pryor clerks.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the only assumption one can make from this story is that Bill Pryor is racist himself.

Anonymous said...

Based on that photo, I would say Clarence Thomas is a black man. And yet, he approves of his wife touting this young woman who hates black people? Does that mean Clarence Thomas is filled with self-loathing? Is that why he so often comes across as bitter and ill-tempered?

legalschnauzer said...

Shouldn't a law clerk for a federal judge be judicious in nature? That means "having, using, or showing good judgment." Crystal Clanton is anything but judicious.

legalschnauzer said...

It's bad enough that Crystal Clanton is racist. But even worse, perhaps, is that she simply does not appear to have the temperament needed to work anywhere in the court system. She's nasty and prone to blurt out inappropriate statements, which might be called tempestuous behavior -- the opposite of judicious.

legalschnauzer said...

More importantly, this story calls Bill Pryor's judgment into question. Is Pryor himself judicious? I'd say this episode proves he is not, as many Alabamians (and others who opposed his nomination)long have suspected. To be an injudicious judge is not a good thing; in fact, it should be disqualifying -- just as wife-beating was for Mark Fuller.

Anonymous said...

Ruth Marcus makes a bunch of good points here. This one stands out:

And this is the truly worrisome part of the Clanton story: that a sitting federal judge is credentialing someone with this kind of hateful statement in her background, and perhaps grooming her for a post that’s even more important, a Supreme Court clerkship.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the most important point of all from Ruth Marcus:

And federal judges are called on to interpret and enforce the law impartially. Ask yourself: How do Black litigants — or Black lawyers — with cases before Pryor have confidence of a fair ruling in their cases with a clerk with Clanton’s record waiting in chambers? How do litigants in employment discrimination or voting rights cases have confidence that they will be treated equally in his court?

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for spotlighting those key points, @11:54. I'll add another, which shows this was not a one-off rant from Ms. Clanton:

Nor was this an isolated outburst. The year after the New Yorker story, the website Mediaite, reporting on Clanton’s hiring by Ginni Thomas, described a Snapchat message featuring “a photo of a man who appears to be Arab and a caption written by Clanton that reads, ‘Just thinking about ways to do another 9/11.’”

Someone who writes such things would not be hired in my private-sector workplace or most others, unless I miss my guess. Moreover, judicial clerkships are federal positions, paid for by taxpayer dollars, where dispensing equal justice under the law is job one.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is another great point from Ruth Marcus;

But there is no evidence of repentance here, and her reported comments are astonishing in their savagery. This is not a case of a racial slur directed in anger at a single individual — not that such conduct would be in any way acceptable. This is even worse: animus expressed toward an entire race.

legalschnauzer said...

Not only is Ms. Clanton injudicious, she seems to lack any sense of decorum or decency. In fact, she comes across as downright mean. To hurl an "F bomb" toward an entire race of people? That's inexcusable. That Bill Pryor rewards such conduct? That's also inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

If Ginni Thomas' goal in that photo was to impersonate a drunk, I'd say she succeeded. Otis of Mayberry would be proud.

legalschnauzer said...

What kind of parents raised this girl? What did she regularly hear in her household growing up? Racist remarks seem to come second nature for her.

Anonymous said...

I'm old enough to be well aware of Paul Harvey. His daily short segments were a highlight if I were in my car driving. His end of the day segment, The Rest Of The Story, was always a treat as I drove home each day. Perhaps, you should focus on "the rest of the story" at the beginning of your day. It might keep you from showing such terrible judgment.

legalschnauzer said...

@4:50 --

What "terrible judgment" are you talking about? Are you talking about Bill Pryor's terrible judgment in hiring this young woman?

legalschnauzer said...

@4:50 --

Gotta give you credit for one of the strangest comments I've seen in a while. Like you, I was a Paul Harvey fan -- and I still count him as one of our all-time great communicators. But not sure what he has to do with this post -- or with Bill Pryor's judgment, or Crystal Clanton's racism. You are pretty much all over the map, but maybe others will have more luck than I did in figuring out your comment.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is another Ali Alexander-related tweet, and this one includes a photo of Ali in transit:

https://twitter.com/stevanzetti/status/1482407211242442752

This is from the account of Texas-based journalist Steven Monacelli.

legalschnauzer said...

Lots of of interesting comments on the Steven Monacelli thread.