Monday, July 19, 2010

"I am not there to entertain anybody."

That was Clarence Thomas at the Utah State Bar convention.  Some highlights from two articles (here and here):
  • When he first arrived on the court, members “actually listened to lawyers,” Thomas said. “We have ceased doing that. Now it’s become a debate or seminar. I don’t find that particularly helpful. It may be entertaining, but I am not there to entertain anybody.”
  • “There can be some questions to clarify things, to challenge it, but you don’t need 50 questions per case,” Thomas said. “That becomes more like “Family Feud” than oral argument.”
  • To his Utah audience, Thomas was unexpectedly warm, funny and engaging — a different man in person, some said, than portrayed in media reports that focus on his bench demeanor.
  • "Things might happen when (I'm not at the court)," he said. "You all may not remember that Eddie Murphy skit where he's on the bus and he's the only black guy on the bus and nobody talks — it's sort of like being on an elevator. As soon as Eddie Murphy leaves the bus, all the whites who are left on the bus throw off their outer garments and they're in party outfits. So things may be going on at the court (when I'm not there) — they may just be waiting and saying, 'Oh, the black guy's gone!' "
  • “Deciding these cases is only easy for those who have no authority to decide them,” Thomas said. “For the rest of us, we don’t have the luxury of impugning motives, of being cynical or being political, because one vote, one mistake, can cause significant harm and change something for quite some time to the detriment of our country.”
  • Thomas also said he thought it “could be a problem” to have judges selected through a political process.
  • Thomas, a Roman Catholic, said his faith is a “source of strength” but that “it would violate the oath to put my faith ahead of what the law actually says, and I don’t do that.”
  • One audience member asked Thomas about Chief Justice John Roberts’ reported push for more consensus decisions. “I would equate trying to get the members of the court to do what you want them to do with herding gnats in a hurricane,” Thomas said.
  • "I think (the politics) about Bush v. Gore is more (a creation) of what the media said about Bush v. Gore, which I think is unfortunate," he said. "I think we have a tendency in this country to characterize institutions in ways that fit in a particular mode and fit a preconceived notion. … The interesting thing is, if you ask the members of the court, they may disagree, they may be upset, they may be passionate, but they would not say it's politics."
  • "I'm convinced," he said, "that part of (this job) is that when you consider the consequences of the decisions that we make, it does weigh on you and it does show you that there's something so important that you've got to get it right. It does have an effect on you."
  • "(The Supreme Court) truly is a marble palace (because) we're isolated. We're isolated from the politics, we're isolated from the city and in a lot of ways we're isolated from the country. These trips allow me to come out and see the people who really matter in our government, and that is you all."


Rumpole said...

kinda funny or at least ironic, since I am here to entertain everybody.

Does CT really think that once he goes home at night or goes on his vacations in his RV that the other eight justices starting hanging party lamps, pop popcorn, turn up the music and have a party? Or is he just a little bit paranoid?

South Florida Lawyers said...

Justice Thomas: "I'm not there to entertain anybody."

Mission accomplished.