Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Uncle Clarence!

Today is the fifth anniversary of the last time that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke aloud during court arguments. For five years, during dozens of cases appearing before the Supreme Court, Uncle Clarence has not opened his mouth, has not asked a single question, not made any remarks, or done anything to dispel the rumor that in actuality he's a hand puppet with Antonin Scalia's hand up his ass.

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.”

It makes people wonder; especially since 74 House Democrats have called for Thomas to recuse himself from the near-certainty that the Court will be asked to decide on the legality of the health care reform laws. Then there's the flimsy excuse Thomas offered when it was revealed that he had "failed to report his wife's income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years."

What is Thomas doing? Why is he so silent during Supreme Court sessions? How can he be willing to talk about movies, but not about issues concerning the Court and our society? Why won't he go to top universities, but restricts himself to obscure, second-rate schools? I think the answer is quite simple; he's taking Mark Twain's advice:

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

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