Clarence Thomas Speaks
After seven years of silence on the bench, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had something to say today, although it’s not entirely clear what point he was trying to make:
Justice Clarence Thomas broke his nearly seven-year silence at Supreme Court oral arguments Monday. But no one is sure exactly what he said.
Thomas seemed to be making a light-hearted joke about lawyers trained at his alma mater Yale Law School or its rival, Harvard. But several justices were speaking and laughing at the time, and the court reporter lost Thomas’s comments during the cross talk.
His comments came during questions about the qualifications of lawyers who had represented a Louisiana man in a murder case. Justice Antonin Scalia noted that one of the lawyers had attended Harvard and another had gone to Yale.
“Son of a gun,” Scalia said.
Thomas was among other justices — all of whom attended either Harvard or Yale — who either laughed or made side comments.
All that appears in an unofficial transcript is Thomas saying “Well — he did not — ”
It appeared that Thomas was joking that that might have made the qualifications suspect, because the Louisiana assistant district attorney in the case, Carla S. Sigler, replied:
“I would refute that, Justice Thomas.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, another Yale graduate, then asked Sigler what was enough to make a lawyer constitutionally adequate.
“Is it anybody who’s graduated from Harvard and Yale?”
“Or even just passed the bar?” Sotomayor asked.
“Or LSU law,” Sigler said, referring to Louisiana State University.
No matter what Thomas said, his streak of not asking a question at oral arguments continues. He last queried a lawyer Feb. 22, 2006.
So, that happened. Whatever the heck it was.