Clarence Thomas goes 5 years without speaking during arguments

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, his wife Virginia, and someone with a neck

Come Tuesday, Clarence Thomas will have passed five years on the Supreme Court without asking a question or offering his opinion during oral arguments. That’s unusual. According to the New York Times, “in the 20 years that ended in 2008,* the justices asked an average of 133 questions per hourlong argument, up from about 100 in the 15 years before that.” Antonin Scalia has been known to interrupt petitioners to read aloud from Garfield. Yet Thomas, described as “gregarious” in his personal life, has not spoken from the bench—except to read prepared statements of majority opinion—since 2006. In addition to pointing out the fundamental inadequacies of the nickname “Silent Clar,” such long reticence begs a question: why?

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Close Readings: Ginni Thomas on Anita Hill’s voicemail

In our rapture over Christine O’Donnell’s last throe of national-profile insanity, we missed the other transcendently awesome thing that happened Tuesday. At approximately 7:30am on October 9, Virginia Thomas—wife of Supreme Court justice and Coke drinker Clarence Thomas—left the following message on Anita Hill’s voicemail:

Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.

Anita Hill did not go on to have a good day. The former metonym for sexual harassment and current Brandeis professor sat on the message for a while before turning it over to Brandeis campus police and, eventually, the FBI. Seriously, Anita Hill: stop snitching. More importantly, Ginni Thomas: stop being a crazy person. Your voice message is so creepy and weasel-worded that you are subject of today’s Close Reading.

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Meanwhile, in Clarence Thomas’s wife’s head

Nice couple.

Combat! blog vacations in beautiful sunny well-groomed Los Angeles, California, today, and finds itself already adopting Californian work habits. While I blow dry my hair in my avocado linen jacket, how about you horrify yourself with the news that Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has started her own Tea Party chapter. This will surely allay my fears! “She is intrigued by Glenn Beck and listening carefully,” says her bio on Liberty Central, a name that no one will realize is ironic until midway through the 2012 corporate giving season election. In addition to holding the power to un-forgive a member of the Supreme Court for publicly acknowledging that he makes a lot pubic hair jokes, Virginia Thomas’s 501(c)4 can accept an unlimited quantity of corporate donations. “Because of a recent Supreme Court decision,” the LA Times observes drily, “the group may also spend corporate money freely to advocate for or against candidates for office.” Or it could, had it not already been busted for operating illegally. Faster than you can say “conflict of interest in sleeping on the hide-a-bed, Clarence,” Virginia consumer protection officials sent a letter of warning to Mrs. Thomas, informing her that Liberty Central was receiving donations while not properly registered as a charity. At least we know she’s not getting free legal advice. The citation is not uncommon—”Our policy is to assist them to come in compliance with the law,”* says state regulator Michael Wright—so Thomas’s group will either A) go the same way as that sweater she started knitting or B) funnel millions of corporate dollars to conservative political candidates while her husband adjudicates from the Supreme Court. Coin toss!