TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Clarence Thomas, the justice long known as the silent member of the Supreme Court, criticized his colleagues Friday for badgering attorneys rather than letting them speak during oral arguments.From the Tuscaloosa News:
Thomas - who hasn't asked a lawyer a question during arguments in nearly four years - said he and the other eight justices virtually always know where they stand on a case by reading legal briefs before oral arguments.
"So why do you beat up on people if you already know? I don't know, because I don't beat up on 'em. I refuse to participate. I don't like it, so I don't do it," Thomas said during an appearance before law students at the University of Alabama.
United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas would have made a good stand-up comedian.
University of Alabama School of law students roared with laughter throughout Thomas’ lecture Friday afternoon that was more of a question and answer session.
Thomas, 61, lowered his already deep voice and answered one question with a Nick Saban impression.
“It’s a process,” he replied to a query about his decision-making process. “You’re not perfect, you’re always analyzing yourself. I could be a good coach.”
* * * He was nominated in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush after serving for just a year on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
“I argued against it, I’d been on the Court of Appeals long enough,” he said. “But when the president calls you, the words out of your mouth are ‘Yes, Mr. President.’”
He first spoke at the school in 2005.
“Last time, I was more on the junior side,” he said. “There are things you learn after 18 years. You’ve seen just about all that you’re going to see,” he said. “Most cases are permutations of the same issue.”
Many of the students’ questions were about Thomas’ path to where he is now and what kind of advice he would give a young law student.
Thomas grew up in Pin Point, Ga., a rural settlement outside Savannah in coastal Georgia that was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. He spoke Geechee, or Gullah, language until he was a teen.
“I found law school difficult. You see my old textbooks, and you’ll see that the textbooks won,” he said. “My journey was in many ways very unhappy and enormously difficult.”
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Thomas said that he preferred to hire law clerks from modest backgrounds.
“There are too many up there who think they should be there because they’re from an elite background,” he said. Students laughed when he described how former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who died in 2005, could get things done with a glare.
“He was more of a father figure of the World War II generation,” he said when asked how Rehnquist differs from Chief Justice John Roberts. “Chief Justice Roberts is a contemporary.” . . . .