As arguably the most ferocious conservative on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas is not usually associated with civil liberties causes, except insofar as popular myth portrays him as hostile to those causes. Contrary to this mythology, however, Thomas has carved out a definitively speech-protective path in his First Amendment opinions. While there have been some notable exceptions, it can be argued that Clarence Thomas is the most pronounced free speech absolutist on the Supreme Court since Hugo Black, who famously (if somewhat apocryphally) believed that "no law means no law" when it comes to the First Amendment.

This article will track Justice Thomas' free speech jurisprudence, with an eye on observing how it has changed-or remained constantover time. Specific attention will be paid to Thomas' quarrels with the majority's compromise approaches to contemporary free speech controversies such as commercial speech and campaign finance regulation, and to his insistence that the free speech clause tolerates little in the way of even incremental restrictions on expression. Along the way, the paper will systematically compare Thomas' overall theory of what free speech means to the approaches to the subject taken by other Justices and theorists.



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