Entries in Justice Clarence Thomas (4)


Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks, But What Does He Say?

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly seven years since he last spoke up during oral arguments, Justice Clarence Thomas cracked a joke Monday. Unfortunately, it’s unclear exactly what he said.

The comment came during a Sixth Amendment case brought by Jonathan Boyer, who was convicted of murder.

At one point, according to the transcript, the justices began discussing the qualifications of the lawyers who had assisted Boyer.

Justice Antonin Scalia asked Carla S. Sigler, the assistant district attorney of Louisiana, about one of the lawyers.

“She was a graduate of Yale Law School?” Scalia asked.

Sigler responded, “She’s a very impressive attorney.”

Then Scalia talked about another lawyer, who is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

“Son of a gun!” joked Scalia, a Harvard Law graduate himself (1960).

The court transcript shows Thomas piping in at that point. But all the transcript reveals is:

“JUSTICE THOMAS: Well – he did not – (Laughter.)”

The court reporter was unable to transcribe the words because of the laughter in court.

A lawyer who was present in court told ABC News that Thomas, who graduated from Yale Law School, was making a joke about Harvard Law School.

But SCOTUS BLOG, the popular blog dedicated to the Supreme Court, sent out a tweet suggesting that the justice was poking fun at his alma mater: “@SCOTUSblog Thomas, J. speaks: funny at argument-Yale degree could mean lawyer is incompetent, not competent, capital trial counsel.”

Thomas (Yale, ’74) has had a strained relationship at times with his former school.

“Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks,” Thomas wrote in his 2007 book, My Grandfather’s Son.

Thomas, 64, says in the book that after he graduated, “As a symbol of my disillusionment, I peeled a fifteen cent price sticker off of a package of cigars and stuck it on the frame of my law degree to remind myself of the mistake I’d made by going to Yale.”

But, recently, he has had a closer relationship with the school. He was a guest speaker last year and also spoke at the Yale Law School Association’s annual dinner in June.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Justice Clarence Thomas' Silence Unmatched over 40 Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas celebrated an unusual anniversary Tuesday: It's been five years since he's asked a question during oral arguments.

Over the years Thomas has read opinions from the bench, but the last time he spoke up spontaneously during an exchange among the justices and lawyers was in February 2006.

His silence during questioning has sparked debate among court watchers over whether a justice should participate in oral arguments.

Some say that the hearings are largely ceremonial, but others see the opportunity to engage in a public dialogue with lawyers on both sides of a case as a crucial tool for justices to try to persuade one another on a matter of law.

While the court does not have official rules mandating the role of each justice during oral arguments, tradition holds that participation is the norm.

"No single justice has gone even one full term without asking a question in the last 40 years," said Timothy R. Johnson, professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.

Johnson, who has studied the issue for an upcoming book, said that on average Justice Antonin Scalia is the most verbose of the justices, speaking about 27 times per argument session. Compare that to Justice Thomas, who speaks on average almost zero.

Thomas has said that he goes into the oral argument sessions knowing how he will decide a case so he doesn't ask questions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lawmakers Call Justices Thomas, Kagan to Sit Out Health Care Case

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Chances are growing that the Supreme Court will take up the constitutionality of the 2010 health care law -- and with them, a political battle is brewing over whether some justices should recuse themselves from the case.

Seventy-four House Democrats, led by New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, sent a letter to Justice Clarence Thomas Wednesday calling on him to sit out deliberations on the Affordable Care Act because of his wife's ties to a lobbying group that opposes the health care law.

"The appearance of a conflict of interest merits recusal under federal law," the letter said.  "From what we have already seen, the line between your impartiality and you and your wife's financial stake in the overturn of healthcare reform is blurred."

Justice Thomas' wife, Virginia Thomas, started the conservative group Liberty Central, but stepped down in December amid controversy over a memo calling for the repeal of the "unconstitutional law."  The group, which later took down the memo from its site, blamed staff error and said it "assiduously avoids" taking positions on the constitutionality of issues.

Under federal law, justices have to recuse themselves from cases where they feel a conflict of interest may arise, or if their spouses have a financial stake, but the decision ultimately rests with each justice.

Critics aren't just pointing to Thomas for having a conflict of interest in a potential health care case.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has questioned the involvement of Justice Elena Kagan, a former member of President Obama's administration.

"I personally believe she should recuse herself.  I'm sure she participated in discussions at the White House.  Participated in discussions in the solicitor general's office.  These issues were brought up throughout the process," Hatch said on Fox News last week.  "That's going to be up to her what she does."

Kagan has recused herself from several cases since she was appointed to the Supreme Court last August.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ginni Thomas on Tea Party: 'Big Tidal Wave Coming'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Forget the polls that show a decrease in support for the Tea Party candidates -- the only poll that matters is the one on Nov. 2, said Ginni Thomas, CEO of the conservative group Liberty Central.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows only 32 percent of Americans believe  the Tea Party will change Washington, while 63 percent said it will not.

“I don’t know about that, I think it’s pretty popular out there from what I see,” said Thomas, also the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“I don’t think it’s a partisan thing going on, I think it’s a principal thing. I think it’s an American thing. I think people are rebelling and there is a big tidal wave coming,” she said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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