Supreme Court's Thomas hires clerk accused of racist conduct

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court justices pose for their group portrait at the Supreme Court in Washington
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By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has hired a law clerk who was accused of racist conduct while she worked at a conservative nonprofit organization that included sending a text message that stated "I hate blacks."

The hiring of Crystal Clanton by Thomas, a Black member of the court's 6-3 conservative majority, was disclosed last week by George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, Clanton's alma mater.

Clanton previously was hired as a law clerk by two federal judges, prompting complaints by Democratic lawmakers that led to a misconduct investigation - eventually dismissed - into the jurists.

Clanton also previously worked for Thomas' wife Ginni, a conservative activist, and once lived with the Thomases.

After graduating from law school in 2022, Clanton worked as a clerk for U.S. District Judge Corey Maze in Birmingham, Alabama. She then clerked for Chief U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both were appointed by Republican presidents.

Pryor, in a statement provided by the Virginia-based law school, called Clanton "an outstanding law clerk."

Clanton and the Supreme Court's press office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The controversy over Clanton's hiring stemmed from her time as the national field director for the conservative student group Turning Point USA.

In a New Yorker magazine story in 2017 examining the group, journalist Jane Mayer reported that Clanton had sent a text message to a colleague stating "I HATE BLACK PEOPLE ... I hate blacks. End of story."

Clanton told the New Yorker in 2017 that she had no recollection of the messages and that they "do not reflect what I believe or who I am."

After resigning from Turning Point, Clanton was hired by Ginni Thomas to assist in media ventures. Justice Thomas has said Clanton lived in their home for nearly a year.

After reports emerged that Pryor planned to hire Clanton as a clerk, Democratic lawmakers on the U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee, including Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Hank Johnson, in 2021 asked the federal judiciary to investigate Maze and Pryor. They said Clanton's hiring by the two judges threatened "to seriously undermine the public's faith in the federal judiciary."

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Judicial Council, which considered the case due to conflicts in the 11th Circuit, last year declined to change an earlier 2022 decision dismissing the misconduct complaint, bringing an end to the matter.

Justice Thomas, in a letter reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2022, defended Clanton and said he had recommended that Pryor hire her.

"Bigotry is antithetical to her nature and character," Thomas wrote.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, Editing by Will Dunham and Alexia Garamfalvi)