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?
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!