Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Breaks Years of Silence

clarence thomas

It was just a few words and a joke at that. But Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas broke his seven-year long silence on Monday when he spoke at oral arguments.

He made fun of lawyers from Yale, his law school alma mater. Thomas has become known for rarely commenting on cases from the bench, another reflection of the complex and often misunderstood personality of the court’s only African-American jurist.

On Monday, the justices were hearing an argument about the state of Louisiana’s delay in paying for counsel for a death penalty defendant. Should that count against the state for the purposes of the right to a speedy trial? A lawyer for the state was making the case for the inmate’s appointed counsel, saying the woman was “more than qualified” and “very impressive.”

“She was graduate of Yale Law School, wasn’t she?” said Justice Antonin Scalia in apparent support, noting another member of the legal team went to Harvard.

The next words were hard to hear in the back-and-forth between the justices. But Thomas made a joke about the competence of Yale lawyers when compared to their Harvard colleagues, according to two witnesses. Six members of the current high court attended Harvard Law School. Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor attend Yale.

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