by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Former President George H.W. Bush, who died peacefully Friday night, made far-reaching changes to the Supreme Court, appointing two justices to the nation’s highest judicial tribunal and clearing the way for three more.
His appointments helped set the trajectory of the nascent conservative legal establishment, and permanently altered Republican perceptions of the judicial selection process.
Bush 41’s legacy pick was Justice Clarence Thomas, who has served on the court for over 25 years. Thomas’ writings as a justice have done significant work toward articulating a coherent conservative legal philosophy, which has since captured wide swaths of the federal judiciary.
The justice’s influence is far reaching as a matter of both scholarship and personnel — his acolytes now populate the federal bench and President Donald Trump’s White House.
Trump has appointed 22 Thomas clerks to senior positions in his administration or the federal courts as of August. One observer called Thomas’ clerks “the legal brain trust of the Trump administration,” while another bemoaned the “Clarence Thomas takeover” of the executive and judicial branches.