Justice Clarence Thomas is known for no commenting during oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
The College Fix Editor Nathan Harden reports on a break in his famous silence.
The last time Thomas spoke during oral arguments? February 22, 2006.
And what did he say after all that time? He made fun of Yale Law School, his famously liberal alma mater.
On Monday, the justices were hearing an argument about the state of Louisiana’s delay in paying for counsel for a death penalty defendant. Should that count against the state for the purposes of the right to a speedy trial?
A lawyer for the state was making the case for the inmate’s appointed counsel, saying the woman was “more than qualified” and “very impressive.”
“She was graduate of Yale Law School, wasn’t she?” said Justice Antonin Scalia in apparent support, noting another member of the legal team went to Harvard.
The next words were hard to hear in the back-and-forth between the justices. But Thomas made a joke about the competence of Yale lawyers when compared to their Harvard colleagues, according to two witnesses.
Six members of the current high court attended Harvard Law School. Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor attend Yale.
The official transcript released by the court does not capture the flavor of the colorful exchange. But the lawyer arguing before the court was apparently not pleased.
“I would refute that, Justice Thomas,” said Carla Sigler, the assistant district attorney in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Thomas has for many years had a strained relationship with Yale Law School, where he attended as a young man. He refused numerous speaking invitations at the school and even refused to allow an official university portrait, as is the tradition for Yale-educated Supreme Court Justices.
He felt the school did not support him during the difficult Anita Hill hearings leading up to his confirmation, and he has also expressed misgivings about the quality of the education he received there, and about how the school’s affirmative action policies had negatively affected the perceptions of others about his qualifications as a lawyer or jurist.
“I’d learned the hard way that a law degree from Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks, no matter how much anyone denied it,” Thomas wrote in his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son…
Nevertheless, it seems Justice Thomas hasn’t expunged the last of his old animus for Yale. And taking a stab at the famously liberal law school was the one thing that could get him to break his seven-year silence.