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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Thursday he would prefer not to face another election-related lawsuit, but defended the high court’s decision to get involved in the contentious dispute over the 2000 presidential vote in Florida. “What are you supposed to do when somebody brings a lawsuit?” Thomas asked University of Kansas law students. “You hear people say the Supreme Court jumped into the last election. I find it very ironic that the very people saying judges are interfering are bringing lawsuits.” “What do you think? Donald Duck is going to decide it?” When asked about the prospect of more litigation over the 2004 vote, Thomas said, “I would prefer not to have to decide it, but that joins a long list of things,” adding: “It’s my job.” Appointed to the court in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, Thomas was part of a 5-4 Supreme Court majority that ended a recount in Florida in 2000, allowing Republican George W. Bush to claim the White House instead of Democrat Al Gore. Thomas made his comments during a question-and-answer session with about 90 students. He declined to be interviewed afterward; no audio or video recording devices were permitted. Thomas expressed confidence about his ability to remain impartial, responding to a question about the role religion plays in his work by saying, “You do ask for strength and wisdom to live up to your oath. “It’s because of your religion that you don’t do things that are skewed, because it’s not right,” Thomas said. “You took an oath to be impartial. That’s when you ought to leave the court — when you can’t look at yourself and say, ‘I was impartial.’ When I can’t, I’ll leave.” Thomas acknowledged he was uncomfortable discussing even general legal issues, comparing public discussion of the court’s internal discussions about the 2000 election lawsuit to a priest violating the confidentiality of the confessional. “I think you really have to have a big ego to think that what you have to say is so important that something that is so critically important to the operation of the court can be violated,” Thomas said. “I have lots of stuff I could tell you about Bush v. Gore, but I’m not going to tell you.” Thomas did remark on a June ruling in which the high court said prisoners seized as potential terrorists and held at Guantanamo Bay may challenge their captivity; he was one of three dissenters. Asked if he thought national security could be affected, he replied: “I think we’ll see in short order. Some of the people now out of Guantanamo Bay are now fighting against the U.S.” Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

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