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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas


The New York Times (NYT) has come out with a piece about Justice Clarence Thomas and how he almost never asks questions from the bench during oral arguments.  His explanations for this vary: first, he is ashamed of his Georgia accent; second, the cases have already been decided, and the oral arguments are just theater.  In reality, he has nothing to say, because he has already decided his opinion on the case (or has had his opinion handed to him by Antonin Scalia.)  He is arguably the worst Supreme Court Justice ever appointed (although there could be some other candidates) and his silence is justifiable on the grounds that he has nothing to say.

Here are some representative reader comments on the NYT story:


is a trusted commenter

A decade and a half ago, I learned from a person at the Supreme Court in a position to know that Clarence Thomas had never ordered a single case from the library. Never to that point. It was clear too from his lack of requesting documents that he had never written an opinion that came out under his name; Scalia had written all of them. One may assume that the librarians play a different role now that so much information is in digital form, so perhaps we cannot so easily trace how little work Thomas is doing. Nonetheless, why should anything have changed? He’d already been on the bench well over a decade when that Supreme Court staff person outed him for doing absolutely nothing as a justice. You say that Thomas should talk, but what would he say? There is no indication that he has studied the cases, the laws that could shape them, or anything else but his marching orders from Scalia, ALEC, and the Koch brothers.


staten island, ny

In the sad and reprehensible case of Justice Thomas, his style and his substance are one and the same – he is an intellectual empty suit. Worse perhaps is his willful misreading of the Constitution, his hypocrisy (opposing opportunities that he himself took advantage of, like affirmative action), and his corruption (not recusing himself when he or his wife have a vested interest in the matter). He is a bad judge, in every sense.

Tommy M


Why would we want Clarence Thomas to talk? If he had anything of substance to say, he would say it. We already know how he will vote on most issues, keeping the underprivileged in their place. The less that comes out of his mouth, the better.


is a trusted commenter

New Haven

Let’s not forget that clerks often write the decisions. Drop out of oral argument and all you are left with is Justice Thomas immediately identifying the position he wants to take and defaulting on the rest of his duties. There is no persuasion, no interaction, no deep thinking — just a quick decision in favor of the richest and most powerful men. I really wonder why he doesn’t just quit; surely his retirement account is stuffed well enough to maintain his RV in perpetuity, and I’m sure there are corporate boards that would love to repay him handsomely for his work on their behalf.



Not talking is his way of thumbing his nose at a world he feels has wronged him. The man sits on the Supreme Court, a lifetime appointment, but he can’t put his overwhelming – and incoherent – resentment to rest. In his mind, it is white liberals and black people generally who have somehow “lynched” him and stolen his manhood. He should step aside and let someone else take his place on the bench, someone with less emotional freight and more willingness to do the job.


Binghamton NY

The American Bar Association gave its opinion of Justice Thomas at the time of his nomination: “A mediocre jurist.” He’s given no reason for anyone to doubt that summation. And wouldn’t it be difficult for him to speak when Justice Scalia’s hand is operating his mouth?

Tom B.

is a trusted commenter

Intelligent, yes. But accomplished? Clarence Thomas’ greatest “accomplishment” before his Supreme Court appointment was spending 8 years as Ronald Reagan’s chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, shilling for big business and refusing to investigate discrimination complaints.

He was to civil rights what James Watt was to national parks or Anne Burford was to the EPA. It’s a sad commentary on what’s happened to this country that Clarence now takes up space in the same chamber once occupied by giants like Thurgood Marshall.


Laconia, NH

“Intelligent, accomplished, thoughtful, conservative and black”

You couldn’t prove this statement by anything he’s done or attributed to Clarence Thomas in his less than distinguished time on the court.

What he seems to have been successful at, more than anything is to be a conduit to his wife’s right wing ultra-conservative lobbying activities.

Len Charlap

Princeton, NJ2 hours ago

1. I doubt if Socrates would agree with you.

2. Apparently you are unaware of the history of Justice Thomas’s appointment. i urge you to read about it.

3. Also I urge readers to read some of Justice Thomas’s opinions. You might start with Connick v Thompson:

“In 1985, John Thompson was convicted of murder in Louisiana. Having already been convicted in a separate armed robbery case, he opted not to testify on his own behalf in his murder trial. He was sentenced to death and spent 18 years in prison—14 of them isolated on death row—and watched as seven executions were planned for him. Several weeks before an execution scheduled for May 1999, Thompson’s private investigators learned that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that would have cleared him at his robbery trial. This evidence included the fact that the main informant against him had received a reward from the victim’s family, that the eyewitness identification done at the time described someone who looked nothing like him, & that a blood sample taken from the crime scene did not match Thompson’s blood type.”

“Both of Thompson’s convictions were overturned.”

” Justice Clarence Thomas tossed out the verdict, finding that the district attorney can’t be responsible for the single act of a lone prosecutor.”

“…Ginsburg correctly notes that “no fewer than five prosecutors” were involved in railroading Thompson.”…

[in response to another commenter]

The only other items to add are the fact that Thomas is married to a right wing fund raiser and behind the scenes mover and shaker who happens to be a blond white woman.  The final fact to note is that he is known to be obsessed with pornography and for  years had an active account at a local video store, most of his rentals being X-rated.  This is not healthy behavior for a Supreme Court Justice and the fact that he married a white, right wing woman says volumes about his mental state.  You can fill that in.

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