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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Crystal Clanton

Many Prawfs readers no know know of Crystal Clanton. She has just been hired by Clarence Thomas for a SCOTUS clerkship, despite her notoriety for writing a blatantly racist text, at age 20, when she worked for Turning Point USA. Although many liberals are outraged that Clanton has gotten a series of plum jobs, I think it is unfair to pillory her for youthful bad behavior, as I explain in my article on Slate.

Here is the gist:

In a classic demonstration of punching down, the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus wrote a series of columns about Clanton—beginning when she was still in law school—that read like a campaign to make her an unemployable pariah. Thomas’ decision to hire Clanton, she said, is a “stain” on the entire federal judiciary.

Marcus got her metaphor backward. Thomas probably wasn’t intentionally channeling Joseph Welch, but he had gotten it right when he responded to the judicial ethics complaint. “We have reached a sorry state of affairs,” he said, “when a young adult can be indelibly marked with today’s ‘scarlet letter’ of defamation.”

Character attacks have been a recurrent feature of American politics since at least the time of Thomas Jefferson. They have often been effective, even if false (see: Clinton, Hillary, 2016), and they can be salutary when true (see: Moore, Roy, 2017). Office seekers know that character attacks come with the territory. But that should not be true of young people who find themselves involuntarily embroiled in controversies, and it is especially unfair when the attacks are based on youthful incidents, from years earlier, that have dubious bearing on whom they have become.

Donald Trump’s Republicans have abandoned decency as a value, with no concern for collateral damage. Liberals could set a far better example by allowing Crystal Clanton to get on with her life.

You can read the entire essay on Slate.

And as a reminder that this sort of thing keeps happening:


Posted by Steve Lubet on February 28, 2024 at 10:37 AM | Permalink


"she evidently overcame any prejudices to the satisfaction of Justice Thomas"

Can I not be overly impressed by that?

Prof. Segall's piece at Dorf on Law, I guess, is the sort of thing being addressed here.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 28, 2024 11:24:54 AM

According to https://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-news/judge-pryor-cleared-of-allegations-involving-hiring-of-controversial-clerk/X3JAHI2TQBCUBMTQ5MDHO56FU4/ Crystal Clanton was cleared of the accusation of sending racist text messages in an investigation by the 2nd Circuit. From the article:

The Turning Point executive “had determined that the source of the allegations against (Clanton) was a group of former employees,” Livingston wrote. “One of these employees was fired after the organization learned that this person had created fake text messages to be used against co-workers, to make it appear that those co-workers had engaged in misconduct when they had not.”

There are far more details in the article, but it basically boils down to accusations from political opponents based on press reports on one hand, and clear statements refuting those reports from multiples sources with first-hand knowledge of the situation and pointing to someone with a history of faking such accusations. This shouldn't even be a close call.

Not only shouldn't someone be pilloried for "youthful bad behavior", they absolutely should not be pilloried when there is significant evidence that the "youthful bad behavior" was a false accusation to begin with.

Posted by: Observer | Feb 28, 2024 11:19:28 AM

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