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Abstract

At the close of the United States Supreme Court's 1994 term, Justice Clarence Thomas became the center of news media attention for his important role as a prominent member of the Court's resurgent conservative bloc. More frequently than in past terms, Thomas's opinions articulated the conservative position for his fellow Justices. According to one report, "The newly energized Thomas has shown little hesitancy this term in leading the conservative charge. Another article referred to Thomas's "full-throated emergence as a distinctive and articulate judicial voice." Thomas's new prominence, assertiveness, and visibility have been attributed to his emergence from the shadows of an infamous confirmation battle. As described by one report, "[Thomas] has hit his stride this year after three years of what some say was a healing period after a confirmation ordeal in which he denied sexual harassment charges by Anita Hill. The emergence of Thomas as a prominent actor on the Supreme Court may reflect, in part, conventional scholarly wisdom that at least three terms are required for a new Justice to become assimilated into the Court's decisionmaking processes. Because neophyte Justices require a period of adjustment, scholars prefer to assess Justices' initial performances after the new judicial officers have served for at least three terms. In light of his four years of service and his publicly recognized emergence as an important Justice, this is an appropriate moment to analyze Justice Thomas's performance. Because Thomas received close scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee, his confirmation hearing testimony provides a useful reference point for assessing his actual performance as a Justice. This Article will examine Thomas's confirmation testimony on issues such as voting rights, abortion, religion, criminal justice, and affirmative action, and will compare this testimony with Justice Thomas's Supreme Court record in these areas. This comparison will show that significant aspects of Justice Thomas's confirmation testimony are at odds with his decisions on the Supreme Court.