The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“The Greatest Living American Issues His Career-defining Court Opinion” – Josh Hammer

by James Wilson Institute on June 28, 2022
Josh Hammer is opinion editor of Newsweek, a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation, counsel and policy advisor for the Internet Accountability Project, a syndicated columnist through Creators and a contributing editor for Anchoring Truths.

In a piece for The Epoch Times, Josh Hammer outlines how Justice Clarence Thomas’s 63-page majority opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen has become his greatest judicial majority opinion to date.

The recent ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen was determined by the court in a 6-3 decision, with Justice Thomas delivering the opinion of the court. It was held that “New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.” New York’s “proper-cause law” required individuals to obtain an unrestricted license that was only given if the individual demonstrated need to conceal and carry in public.

Hammer cites that the majority opinion exemplifies Justice Thomas long history as an originalist and confirms his influence as one of the most prominent constitutionalists in history.

It is unfortunate that Justice Clarence Thomas, an intellectual trailblazer of an originalist constitutional interpretive methodology who celebrated his 30-year anniversary on the Supreme Court last fall, had to date failed to pen a Court majority opinion that law students and legal practitioners could readily point to as his signature achievement—his juridical magnum opus. Much of Thomas’ most impactful, and certainly culturally salient, writings have come in dissent. He has of course had ample opportunity to write majority opinions over the span of his illustrious Court tenure, but those majority opinions have typically come in more arcane legal realms, such as habeas corpus.

All of that changed with Thomas’ 63-page majority opinion in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case, this Supreme Court term’s marquee Second Amendment case. Thomas’ majority opinion, which came a mere two days after the formal release of Michael Pack and Mark Paoletta’s new book, “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” extends a natural intellectual arc from his prior writings in this hotly contested jurisprudential area.

The conclusion of Thomas’ majority opinion returned, as expected, to first principles: ‘We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.‘”

Read more on Hammer’s piece here. Originally published in The Epoch Times.

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790