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Justice Thomas to Return to UGA

One university professor plans to protest the Supreme Court Justice.

By Ross Markman
Morris News Service

ATHENS U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will return to the University of Georgia School of Law next week, six months after his appearance as the school's graduation speaker sparked a contingent of faculty and students to boycott the commencement ceremony.

And, just like Thomas' visit last May, one university professor plans to protest the man whose record he dubbed "deplorable'' and teeming with "anti-human rights rhetoric.''

In May, on graduation morning, law professor Donald Wilkes delivered a speech at the Tate Student Center plaza, criticizing Thomas, an outspoken conservative and native of Pinpoint.

Wilkes was not alone. Thomas' selection as the school's commencement speaker spurred a petition, ultimately signed by 11 faculty members and 50 students.

Although he doesn't object to Thomas speaking with students "I believe in freedom of ideas,'' he said Wilkes plans to return to the plaza the morning Thomas is scheduled to visit law school classes, Nov. 21.

"I will make a speech in which I will take the opportunity to make clear to the public-at-large this man's terrible record as a Supreme Court justice,'' he said. "I'm sort of lucky. How many people get a chance to publicly denounce Justice Thomas' political philosophy twice in one year?''

Rebecca White, interim dean of the law school, said in a written release Thomas was invited to campus by the Black Law Students Association. He'll visit with and speak to various classes throughout the day.

"It is not often that law students have the chance to talk with a member of our country's highest court,'' White said.

Law professor Thomas Eaton agreed, despite his distaste for many of Thomas' views.

"I think it'd be a pretty sterile place if we only invited people we agree with,'' Eaton said.

Thomas, sworn in as a Supreme Court justice in 1991, is no stranger to controversy. When his nomination moved to the U.S. Senate floor, he was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, then a University of Oklahoma law professor. Nevertheless, after highly publicized hearings, the Senate confirmed Thomas.

That incident is gone from the mind of third-year law student Erica Wright.

"I think he's a Supreme Court justice. And if our law school can get a Supreme Court justice to come here, I think that's great,'' Wright said.