Clarence Thomas may well be the most enigmatic person to ever serve as a justice on the United States Supreme Court. He speaks so rarely from the bench that he has been nicknamed “the Sphinx.” Until February of this year, he had not, in a decade, even asked a question from the bench. When he did, it was to fire off this query to Justice Department lawyer Ilana Eisenstein: Does a misdemeanor conviction of any other law “suspend a constitutional right?” When he was done, he went right back to his stone-faced silence.
Having been on the Supreme Court for a quarter century–Thomas took his place as an Associate Justice in 1991–it seems fair to wonder exactly what Justice Thomas thinks about as competing attorneys make their points and the other justices pepper them with numerous questions. Does he wish the other justices would be as silent as him so the debate could be over with more quickly, or might he already have determined which way he plans to vote prior to the oral arguments? Does he doodle on a pad, make notes, create a grocery list, write his name in calligraphy?
Or does he merely sleep? Do Supreme Court justices sleep on the bench? Is that even allowed?! Wouldn’t a justice sitting next to you give you an elbow to bring you back to reality?
To answer that question more in a more definitive fashion, consider this drawing from Supreme Court sketch artist Art Lien:
Looks like Justice Kennedy on the left and Chief Justice Roberts in the center, but what is the odd headlike blob on the far right? Let’s find out:
look at this drawing from SCOTUS oral arguments yesterday pic.twitter.com/eSTR9IiEfN
— sarah jeong (@sarahjeong) April 22, 2016
Yes, thanks to the miracles of modern technology, it does indeed appear that Justice Thomas has fallen asleep and slumped down in his chair. Either that or one of his colleagues needs to administer emergency CPR, stat!
Admittedly, we’ve all gotten a bit drowsy on the job before. Some may even go so far as to catch a quick catnap from time to time when the boss isn’t around. But does it seem wise that a man whose decisions can directly affect the lives of every person in this country sleep on the job?
Justice Thomas does actually give interviews, and he speaks when he gives them, as you can see in this interview from 2013:
Featured Image Via Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images