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Clarence Thomas speaks—but what did he say?

Two of the things Clarence Thomas ’74JD is famous for—his reticence on the US Supreme Court bench and his dissatisfaction with his alma mater, Yale Law School—have peacefully coexisted.

Until now.

Yesterday, the justice broke his seven-year silence, speaking up during arguments on a death penalty case. But no one is sure what he said, or at least what he meant.

Tweeted the courtwatching Scotusblog: "Thomas, J. (Yale, JD), speaks: funny at argument—Yale degree could mean lawyer is incompetent, not competent, capital trial counsel."


Today, the New York Times's Adam Liptak ’84, ’88JD, reports that the discussion concerned whether graduating from Yale Law is proof of a lawyer's competence.

Thomas's words, according to the official court transcript (pdf): "Well—he did not—." Laughter ensued. Scotusblog took the interjection as a joke implying that a Yale Law degree is proof of incomptence.

I guess you had to be there.

Filed under Clarence Thomas, Adam Liptak, US Supreme Court, Yale Law School
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