I’m a huge fan of Jeffery Toobin, the CNN commentator and New Yorker writer. Among several other books, he wrote the definitive account of the O.J. Simpson trial, The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson. A great read.
I greatly enjoyed his recent piece, Clarence Thomas’s Disgraceful Silence, which all but lacerates the Supreme Court Justice for failing to take part in the give and take that’s customary for Justices to engage in with lawyers presenting cases before the Court:
“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.”
Thomas’s longstanding silence has changed over the years, Toobin says. In the period immediately after his controversial confirmation in 1991, he seemed to be at least acknowledging where he was, though his comments were limited to whispers to the Justices that sat to his right and left. Now, however, Thomas has fallen into something that Toobin describes as close to catatonia, staring at the ceiling at length during proceedings, while Justices such as Scalia, 77, and Ginsburg, 80, engage actively:
“By refusing to acknowledge the advocates or his fellow-Justices, Thomas treats them all with disrespect. It would be one thing if Thomas’s petulance reflected badly only on himself, which it did for the first few years of his ludicrous behavior. But at this point, eight years on, Thomas is demeaning the Court. Imagine, for a moment, if all nine Justices behaved as Thomas does on the bench. The public would rightly, and immediately, lose all faith in the Supreme Court. Instead, the public has lost, and should lose, any confidence it might have in Clarence Thomas.”