Columnist

“Breaking a decade-long silence, Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday asked several questions from the Supreme Court bench. He spoke just weeks after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose empty seat next to Justice Thomas’s remains draped in black.

“It was hard to escape the conclusion that the absence of the voluble Justice Scalia, who had dominated Supreme Court arguments for nearly 30 years on the bench, somehow liberated Justice Thomas and allowed him to resume participating in the court’s most public activity. … 

“He asked a series of questions about whether misdemeanor convictions can permanently suspend a constitutional right… The barrage of sharp, pointed questions continued, with Justice Thomas seeming to have the better of several of the exchanges. Justice Thomas last asked a question on Feb. 22, 2006, in a death penalty case. He spoke a total of 11 times earlier in that term and in the previous one.

“He has offered shifting reasons for his 10 years of silence. In his 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” he wrote that he had never asked questions in college or law school and that he had been intimidated by some of his fellow students.

“He has also said he is self-conscious about the way he speaks, partly because he had been teased about the dialect he grew up speaking in rural Georgia.”

— The New York Times, Monday, Feb. 29

Who knew that Justice Thomas was just waiting to spring, all this time? In the absence of Justice Scalia, what else will happen during oral arguments? Fortunately, I was lucky enough to get rush transcripts from several oral arguments IN THE FUTURE.

Some excerpts.

Supreme Court Hearing Tuesday, March 1
(Nichols v. United States)
“I have a question,” Justice Thomas said. “If I were to ask a question, or even a series of questions, would anyone follow me down the hallway afterwards and repeat them back to me in a mean, sing-song voice, then mutter ‘Do you even hear the way you sound? How can you stand it?'”

“What?” Justice Roberts asked.

“I was not finished,” Justice Thomas said, holding up a hand. “Would that person and then lean in, and whisper, ‘Nice tie,’ in a tone that made it clear he did not actually think it was a nice tie at all? Would anyone do that?”

A brief hush fell over the courtroom. “N-no,” Justice Kagan said. “No one would  — wait — what? Are you okay?”

“Then I have a question,” Justice Thomas said.

Husky Electronics v. Ritz

“I have a question,” Justice Thomas asked. “The last time I asked a question, in 2006, I came back to my office to find that my bobbleheads had been rearranged in a threatening manner and the words ‘YOU KNOW THE COVENANT’ scrawled on my blotter in an unidentified substance. Was anybody in this room right now responsible?”

Silence. A lamp fell to the ground and shattered. “That is what I thought,” Justice Thomas added, folding his arms.

Wednesday, March 2

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Justice Thomas arrived with a thick briefcase full of notes. “I have a lot of questions to get to now,” he announced. “Each time I had a question, I wrote it down. I feel like many of them are still fresh. Ahem. ‘You think you’re the only one who is funny?’ ‘Let the man finish.’ ‘Let the woman finish.’ ‘Oh yeah, well can a CORPORATION do THIS?” He rose from the desk and performed a flawless cartwheel. “That’s a form of speech I don’t think corporations have yet mastered.”

“What?” Justice Sotomayor asked. “What’s even happening?”

Monday, March 21, 2016

Wittman v. Personhuballah

Justice Thomas strolled into the courtroom wearing an elaborate new collar with I DO WHAT I WANT NOW written on it in comic sans.

“What’s that you’re wearing, justice?” Justice Kagan asked in an undertone as the session opens.

Justice Thomas ignored her. “I have a question,” he shouted, propping his feet up on the desk. “Isn’t today a BEAUTIFUL DAY?”

RJR Nabisco v. European Community

“Do you think argle-bargle is a real word?” Justice Thomas asked, at the conclusion of oral arguments. “I don’t, but I want to hear what you think, too.”

Tuesday, March 22

Simmons v. Himmelreich

“I have a question,” Justice Thomas asked. “Has anyone ever read or seen ‘Ella Enchanted’? Or the film ‘Liar Liar’? Or, heck, ‘Harry Potter’?”

“Yes,” Justice Sotomayor said. “Why?”

“Would you believe it if I told you that enchantment is possible and that some enchanters still walk among us?”

“I hate to be this person,” Justice Kagan said, “but do you absolutely need to do this during oral arguments? There’s a lot at stake here.”

“There can be a lot at stake when you are ensorcelled,” Justice Thomas observed, somberly. “Maybe a life. Maybe it could be that you couldn’t open your mouth for 10 years in a courtroom or your brothers would turn back into wild swans, whether or not you’d finished their thistle sweaters.”

“I understood that reference!” Justice Alito announced, excitedly.

Puerto Rico vs. Franklin, CA Tax-Free Trust

“Any further questions?”

“Solicitor General,” Justice Thomas asked, “is there any reason why somebody wouldn’t write an opera about me? I’m just as good as anyone else on this bench.”

Justice Ginsburg sighed.  “Look, Justice Thomas. We’re sorry. What do you want us to say? We didn’t know. We had no way of knowing. Why didn’t you say something?”

“What a horribly ironic question,” Justice Thomas answered.