History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


Clarence Thomas

Scroll down to see images of the item below the description

Extraordinary letter in which Justice Thomas thanks New Mexico gubernatorial candidate John Dendahl

 “for being so supportive” and twice conveys his best wishes as Dendahl looks to unseat his opponent

Clarence Thomas, 1948–. Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, 1991–.  Typed Letter Signed, Clarence Thomas, with autograph postscript, one page, 8½” x 11”, on engraved stationery of the Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C., September 6, 2005. 

This is an extraordinary letter in which a sitting Supreme Court Justice twice conveys his best wishes to a political nominee looking to unseat an incumbent.  Justice Thomas responds to a letter from John Dendahl, the outspoken former chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party who, at the time of this letter, was the Republican nominee for Governor of New Mexico.  He thanks Dendahl for a copy of his newspaper column that appeared in two New Mexico newspapers and adds a holograph postscript thanking Dendahl for his support.  In full:  “Thank you for your letter of June 20, 2005 and a copy of your column that appeared in The Santa Fe New Mexican and the Albuquerque Journal.  Best wishes to you.”  In the postscript, he adds:  “Thank you so much for being so supportive.  I wish you all the best!”

It appears likely that in the newspaper column, Dendahl blasted his opponent, Democrat incumbent Governor Bill Richardson, for vetoing eminent domain reform in New Mexico in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005).  Dendahl’s view would have supported that of Justice Thomas, who dissented in Kelo

In Kelo, a 5–4 majority of the Supreme Court held that the City of New London, Connecticut, could constitutionally condemn private property in order to sell it to private developers whose contemplated development would create jobs and increase tax revenue in the economically depressed city.  The taking, the Court ruled, was for a “public use” within the meaning of the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that property may not be “taken for public use, without just compensation.” 

Justice Thomas dissented, decrying the “far-reaching, and dangerous, result.”  He argued  that if  “such ‘economic development’ takings are for a ‘public use,’ any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution.”  He looked to the original meaning of the public use clause, which, he said, “is a meaningful limit on the government’s eminent domain power.”  He believed that the earlier case law on which the majority relied was “wholly divorced from the test, history, and structure of our founding document,” and he argued that “the conflict of principle raised by this boundless use of the eminent domain power should be resolved” in favor of the landowners.

In light of Kelo, many states enacted eminent domain reform to prevent, under state law, the types of takings that Kelo said the United States Constitution permits.  In 2006, both chambers of the New Mexico legislature, which were controlled by Democrats, unanimously acted to restrict the use of eminent domain.  But Richardson vetoed the bill, thus drawing Dendahl’s ire.

Justice Thomas is currently the Court’s senior Associate Justice and its most conservative.  President George H. W. Bush appointed him in 2001 to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Justice Thurgood Marshall.  He had previously served as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the nation’s most powerful Court of Appeals, to which Bush had appointed him.  Before taking the bench, he served as chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by appointment of President Ronald Reagan.

Justice Thomas has signed this letter with a bold 3¼” signature.  The signature and the postscript are in blue ballpoint pen.  The letter has two horizontal mailing folds, one of which goes through Thomas’s signature, and there is a bit of light offset from the text below and through a portion of the postscript.  Overall the letter is in very fine condition.


Click here to see more Supreme Court items.






home  |  presidents  |  supreme court  |  american history  |  world history  |  contact us


© History In Ink, L.L.C.




 Registered Dealer # RD281