For a U.S. Supreme Court justice who remains mum during oral arguments, Clarence Thomas shared a lot on Wednesday during a 90-minute conversation before an audience of 2,300 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Appearing on stage with Theodore B. Olson, former U.S. solicitor general and now a Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner in Washington, D.C., Thomas began the evening with humor. "I was planning on not saying anything," he told Olson, noting that he has done that for years. His 19th term on the nation's highest court will begin Monday.
In response to Olson's questions about the value of oral arguments, Thomas said that sometimes they made a difference but rarely did they change votes, and never did they make a difference on a sustained basis. Olson asked if oral arguments should be dispatched with altogether. Thomas said no but that the other court members should let the advocates talk rather than peppering and interrupting them with questions. He said, "I have no idea what they are doing," about his fellow justices who speak more often in oral arguments and speculated that other justices may be seeking "to get a chuckle out of the audience."
The audience frequently responded to his talk with applause. Thomas' book "My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir," published in 2007, was available for purchase in the lobby.
This article first appeared on the Tex Parte blog on TexasLawyer.com.