Jeffrey Toobin checks in with the progress Justice Clarence Thomas is making in his lifetime appointed position of ‘checked-out’ mute to the most important court in the world, and discovers nothing has changed in the past eight years.
As of this Saturday, February 22nd, eight years will have passed since Clarence Thomas last asked a question during a Supreme Court oral argument. His behavior on the bench has gone from curious to bizarre to downright embarrassing, for himself and for the institution he represents.
Human beings are social creatures, at least on the court, Toobin writes of Justice Breyer, “in his twentieth year on the Court, [Breyer] is still having the time of his life. He laughs at all the jokes, especially his own.”
Even Justice Ginsberg, who is 80, and still throws down with the best litigators in the free world, albeit politely, is up there making a dignified case to history.
Writing about President Obama’s legacy appointments to the court, Toobin expounds, “The Court’s youngest members (and junior New Yorkers) sit on opposite ends of the bench, and both take aggressive tones with the lawyers.” Justice Sotomayor “burrows into the facts of cases in extraordinary detail,” while Justice Kagan is “about the big picture, and it’s usually a refined version of “‘Counsel, let’s cut the crap. Isn’t this case really about … ?’”
But Justice Thomas?
These days, Thomas only reclines; his leather chair is pitched so that he can stare at the ceiling, which he does at length. He strokes his chin. His eyelids look heavy. Every schoolteacher knows this look. It’s called “not paying attention.”
When this guy finally snaps and shows up to the court wearing only a powdered wig and shiny red thong underwear while carrying an AR-15 with extended clip, I wouldn’t argue with him.