The Silence of Clarence Thomas

From the NY Times:

A week from Tuesday, when the Supreme Court returns from its midwinter break and hears arguments in two criminal cases, it will have been five years since Justice Clarence Thomas has spoken during a court argument.

If he is true to form, Justice Thomas will spend the arguments as he always does: leaning back in his chair, staring at the ceiling, rubbing his eyes, whispering to Justice Stephen G. Breyer, consulting papers and looking a little irritated and a little bored. He will ask no questions.

In the past 40 years, no other justice has gone an entire term, much less five, without speaking at least once during arguments, according to Timothy R. Johnson, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. Justice Thomas’s epic silence on the bench is just one part of his enigmatic and contradictory persona. He is guarded in public but gregarious in private. He avoids elite universities but speaks frequently to students at regional and religious schools. In those settings, he rarely dwells on legal topics but is happy to discuss a favorite movie, like “Saving Private Ryan.”

7 Comments

    1. Or it could show that he does a lot of research on his own, and doesn’t need to ask a lot of questions. I’m not about to defend him as a legal scholar or anything; I don’t know squat about the law outside of Law & Order, but it seems a bit rash to assume he’s doing someone’s bidding just because he’s reticent in court and Scalia is a nearby cartoon supervillain.

      1. I’m throwing in with damnedyankee. As the article points out, a) he’s usually pretty negative in general about the court, and b) if he were to speak up in arguments, he may open a new avenue of thought for everyone which should bring the court closer to a more-reasoned conclusion. It seems like he’s not working up to his potential in a job that he doesn’t enjoy as much as you’d hope he would.

      2. absolutely. Once pejoratives come into play it helps you realize that the author isn’t very reasonable. Totally disregarding the lizard comment, Thomas is not the best.

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