Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas finishes his thought

Justice Clarence Thomas completed his thought Wednesday.

Thomas made headlines last week when he spoke during Supreme Court oral arguments for the first time in nearly seven years. But his remarks were truncated.

“Well — he did not — ” was all the court reporter could make out before Thomas’s words were lost among the voices and laughter of other justices during the Jan. 14 arguments in Boyer v. Louisiana.

But the court released a new transcript Wednesday that contains the complete sentence:

“JUSTICE THOMAS: Well, there — see, he did not provide good counsel.”


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas poses for an official photograph with the other justices at the Supreme Court in in this Sept. 29, 2009 photo. (Jim Young/Reuters)

The point remained the same. Thomas was tossing a lighthearted barb during a discussion about the qualifications of some of the attorneys representing murder suspect Jonathan Boyer.

One had attended Yale and one had attended Harvard. Thomas is a Yale Law grad who has been a frequent critic of his alma mater. On the other hand, he may have been making a crack about rival Harvard, because the lawyer from Cambridge was a man, and the New Haven graduate was a woman.

Maybe the joke was directed at the entire Ivy League, a favorite Thomas target. Every member of the high court attended Yale or Harvard, although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg finished at Columbia.

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said it is routine for the company that provides transcripts, Alderson Reporting, to listen again to the recording of arguments and make revisions. The original transcript was posted on the court’s Web site within hours of the arguments’ conclusion.

Thomas is frequently asked during appearances and speeches about his decision not to ask questions during oral arguments. Most recently, he has said his colleagues ask too many questions and disrupt the lawyers’ presentations.

Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006.
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