Washington, D.C. – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has broken his 7-year silence to make a joke during court proceedings.
Reuters reports that Justice Thomas broke his 7-year silence Monday while speaking to a lawyer presenting a case during oral arguments before the US Supreme Court.
The case that broke Thomas’s silence was Boyer v. Louisiana in which Jonathan Boyer tried to overturn his murder conviction on the argument that the state of Louisiana violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial by making him sit in the pen for seven years.
One of the issues present was whether Boyer’s court-appointed lawyers in the proceedings were qualified to represent him. The two lawyers in question were: Stephen Singer, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and Christine Lehman, a graduate of Yale Law School.
“She was a graduate of Yale Law School, wasn’t she?” Justice Antonin Scalia asked Carla Sigler, a lawyer representing Louisiana.
“She’s a very impressive attorney,” Sigler responded.
“And another of his counsel, Mr. Singer – of the three that he had – he was a graduate of Harvard Law School, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Son of a gun.”
And here’s when Justice Thomas, himself a Yale Law graduate, broke his 7-year silence. He suggested that Singer’s law school qualifications didn’t necessarily equate to good representation.
“Well – he did not,” Thomas said as laughter enveloped the courtroom.
Sigler refuted, arguing that the lawyer’s law school qualifications probably didn’t make a difference to Boyer’s case.
“I would refute that, Justice Thomas,” she said.
According to NBC News, Justice Thomas is uniquely silent among the other eight Supreme Court Justices, and has been since 2006. The rest are very active questioners, with Thomas having suggested in the past that he is silent because he prefers to listen, and because he believes his colleagues ask too many questions, which makes it hard for lawyers to make their cases.