Justice Clarence Thomas is notorious for being the most taciturn member of the Supreme Court. For seven years, he has refused to speak at oral arguments, which often showcase spirited exchanges between lawyers and the eight other justices. Thomas once dismissed the exercise as beneath the court's dignity. "We look like Family Feud," he told a bar association in Richmond, Va.
That's why it came as a surprise when Thomas broke his seven-year reign of silence on Monday, in response to a question over a lawyer's competence. And what did Thomas say after keeping his thoughts to himself for all these years? Well, perhaps his utterance was too much of a surprise for court watchers, for no one caught what he said. It went down like this, according to Mike Sacks at The Huffington Post:
Before Thomas spoke in Boyer v. Louisiana, Justice Antonin Scalia was asking the state's attorney about the competency and experience of the lawyers for the capital defendant, Jonathan Edward Boyer. After learning that the lawyers went to Harvard and Yale law schools, Scalia said, "Son of a gun." Then Thomas spoke.
According to the transcript, he said, "Well — he did not —," followed by laughter. Louisiana's lawyer then responded, "I would refute that, Justice Thomas." [Huffington Post]
"He did not"…what? And what was so hilarious? Some educated guessers say Thomas, a Yale graduate, was poking fun at his alma mater and Ivy League schools in general. But it looks like Thomas' exact words will be lost to posterity.