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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Factoid of the Day

Justice Clarence Thomas sat through 68 hours of oral arguments in the Supreme Court's current term without uttering a word.

Comments (17)

As Cokie Roberts (formerly?) of NPR would say in closing every story involving this Justice, "Clarence Thomas, as usual, said nothing."

Cokie Roberts is still with NPR, but it's the excellent Nina Totenberg who generally reports from the Supreme Court. While I don't deny Cokie mentions Thomas' silence when she can, that's a Totenberg line.


I'm not a Thomas fan. Even during my days as a Limbaugh addict, he gave me the willies. That said, he scores big points with me when he says he doesn't need to hear his own voice. I have no problem with that. He's not the one deciding cases up there anyway. That's Kennedy.

Wish I could find the article I saw the other day where the author speculated the next president could fill up to three spots. Stevens can't go on forever, Souter has hinted at boredom and a desire to go do something else, and Ginsburg is thought to be in poor health. As much fun as the Roberts court has been to this point, I could only imagine what the court would look like with three Obama or Edwards nominees.

I'm sure all the folks who tried to torpedo his nomination are quite comfortable with Justice Thomas letting the white folks have their say first.

Judge Thomas shows good horse-sense by keeping his ignorance to himself. Reading his briefs is a sad laughing matter. His opinions are so out of touch, one can imagine how ludicrous his speaking would be. Most supreme court justices hire law clerks of high accolades, I wonder if Thomas is capable of doing the same? Probably not!

KISS, which briefs in particular are you referring to? Can you pinpoint one or two that you find particularly to be a "sad laughing matter"? Or are you just paroting Harry Reid who called Thomas's opinions an embarrassment and later, when confronted and asked to give examples, was shown to never have read one?

Back in 1999, I sat through two days of oral arguments while my partner represented one of our clients. Thomas rocked back and forth in his chair almost the entire time, and a few times, he tipped his chair waaaaaay back so that he was just about horizontal. He just stared up at the ceiling, for minutes at a time.

And he chewed gum throughout both days.

And by the way - didn't say a word. But he did write a concurrence in our opinion, almost as if he wanted to prove that he *was* paying attention.

I also had the opportunity to watch an oral argument a few years back, and saw the same thing as Rich did. Except Thomas also closed his eyes and sat motionless for minutes at a time. It's possible he was deep in thought, but. . . .

As for how many justices will retire in the next four years, those predictions are a lot like snow predictions. Every time the forecast is repeated, someone adds a few more inches.


Whenever I hear white lefties criticize Thomas, I get the uncomfortable feeling that they're just pissed 'cause he left the plantation. You never hear them criticize Reverend Al or Je$$e Jackson, corrupt and dishonest though they may be, because they're still on it.

...someone adds a few more inches.

Oh, I agree. I just thought two of the names were interesting considering their tenure on the court.

I wish I could remeber where I recently read an interesting piece on Thomas. The author personally interviewed the man as well as some of his closest friends. In reading the article, I got the impression that he is an exceptionally proud person who is just stubborn enough to keep quiet out of spite for those fixated on his lack of comment during oral argument. To him, at this point it is about who is going to blink first.

Personally, seems a little childish considering he is on the supreme court, after all.

If oral argument before the Supreme Court has any meaning at all (which is open to question), it will be found in the give-and-take between the advocates for the two opposing sides, on the one hand, and the justices, on the other, testing and probing the strength of the litigants' case and, in so doing, helping the rest of the court appreciate the issues. Thomas's lack of participation in this, plus his tendency to piggy-back his vote on Scalia's, may not conclusively prove his lack of capacity to function as a Justice, but they are evidence pointing in that direction.

at this point it is about who is going to blink first.

Sounds like the Chimp in the White House.

I'm sure Justice Thomas wishes he was as smart and sophisticated and knowledgable as all the legal geniuses that spend their days commenting on Jack's blog. Bob

I'd like to hear a little more from Justice Harrie Myers.

Travis, a few years back, somewhere between 1998 and 2003, the New Yorker did a feature on him that was well researched and included a thoughtful and long interview with him. He came across very well, very intelligent, and fiercely proud of what he had accomplished. I gained a lot of respect for him after reading what others said about him and what he said himself.

Actually, Alan, it seems it is Scalia who joins Thomas rather than vice versa. I recently completed a great book: Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court by Jan Crawford Greenburg. I highly recommend this engaging, thorough, even-handed book. One of her conclusions is that rather than being Scalia's understudy, Thomas has actually played a substantial role in shaping the direction of the court and that it is Scalia that joins Thomas's decisions. Interestingly, she also says that Thomas's conservative opinions did, at times, drive Justice O'Connor to the left. Frankly, I find Justice Thomas's opinions to be among the clearest, well written opinions; certainly more temperate than Scalia, whose style can be acerbic.

To the excellent Chris Snethen: You are absolutely right on the Totenberg ID! I was driving home from work on the 22nd, and I slapped my forehead, Homer Simpson style. Thanks.


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