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Justice Clarence Thomas hospitalized with infection; Supreme Court says he’ll miss some oral arguments this week

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court, is hospitalized with an infection and being treated with intravenous antibiotics, the Supreme Court announced Sunday night.

Thomas, 73, was admitted to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington on Friday evening, according to the release, with flu-like symptoms.

“He underwent tests, was diagnosed with an infection, and is being treated with intravenous antibiotics,” the release said. “His symptoms are abating, he is resting comfortably, and he expects to be released from the hospital in a day or two.”

Like other justices, Thomas has been vaccinated against the coronavirus and received a booster. His illness is not related to covid-19, said Supreme Court Public Information Officer Patricia McCabe.

The court holds oral arguments Monday through Wednesday this week. McCabe said Thomas does not plan to take part remotely, as some other justices have done.

“Justice Thomas will participate in the consideration and discussion of any cases for which he is not present on the basis of the briefs, transcripts, and audio of the oral arguments,” the release said.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was admitted to a hospital with an infection and being treated with intravenous antibiotics, the court said on March 20. (Video: Reuters)

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The court did not disclose the reason for the delay in announcing Thomas’s hospitalization, and McCabe said she had nothing more to add to the release.

Thomas is the oldest member of the court after 83-year-old Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who plans to retire at the end of the term. The court’s only African American justice, Thomas was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 to take the seat of Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was the court’s first Black justice.

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who President Biden has chosen to replace Breyer. She would be the court’s first Black female justice.

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Thomas for years was an enigmatic figure on the court, rarely asking questions during oral arguments and often writing solo opinions that explained his own reasons for voting with the majority or dissenters in a case. But that changed during the pandemic, when the court began remote oral arguments in a more structured format. Now he often asks the first question of counsel, and participates in virtually every argument.

He often leads a conservative majority that does not include Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Thomas’s clerks have gone on to appellate judgeships around the country, and played a large role in the Trump administration.

Recently, the activities of Thomas’s wife, conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, have drawn scrutiny. In an interview published this month, Ginni Thomas acknowledged that she attended the Jan. 6, 2021, pro-Trump rally that ultimately led to violence in the U.S. Capitol, but said she stayed only a short time.

That has led some to question whether Thomas should recuse himself from some cases involving Donald Trump. When the Supreme Court recently turned down Trump’s attempt to withhold documents from the congressional committee investigating the riot, Thomas was the only justice to indicate he would grant Trump’s request while the legal fight continued.