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Supreme Court, anyone?

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Point of Order, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    Is anyone watching the replay of the Supreme Court arguments on forced school desegregation, etc? It's interesting, but hard to keep up. I wonder if Clarence Thomas is asleep. I've listened to several of these and never heard him ask a single question. There's another case coming up next. I'm excited: Much better than Judge Judy, although Joe Brown would be very close.
  2. trifectarich

    trifectarich Well-Known Member

    Clarence Thomas is known for saying nothing during arguments. It's news when he DOES have a question or comment.

    I covered the Supreme Court once and it was great. Because so many reporters covered the case I attended, I was relegated to a location where reporters could hear the justices but not see them. A clerk stood in an entryway where she could see them, and every time a different justice spoke, she flashed a number to reporters with her fingers, just like an official giving a player number to a basketball scorekeeper.
  3. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    Thomas has said that he generally has his mind made up by the written briefs and his own research before he enters oral argument and only asks questions to clarify points or if he is legitimately undecided about a point of law. I guess I'd rather have that than Scalia lobbing softballs to the side he favors and throwing high heat at the side he doesn't favor.
  4. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

  5. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    Because Thomas is being intellectually honest and using the oral arguments for the reason they are intended: to give the Justices a chance to ask questions/clarify points in order to help reach a decision.
  6. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    yeah, the real dirty stuff doesn't happen in oral arguments. it's just answering questions raised when justices read the briefs. it's in their weekly closed-door conferences where the justices really hash things out. that would be great to listen to, but it's done entirely in secret. no note takers, no secretaries, no recordings, no one other than the big nine in the room.
  7. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    I guess if his mind is made up on how he's voting, it ain't going to change based on the oral presentation. So I understand your point on that. I get it. But the fact Thomas never needs any points of clarification on the briefs? He never has any questions on the soundness of the argument on one side or the other as they are specified in the briefs? I'm skeptical. I'd rather have them challenge my positions so I could get a better read on where my argument is most vulnerable. And in listening to the audio, it at least gives us an introspective into how the justices are framing their thoughts.

    And, oh, how often does Thomas write an opinion? Doesn't he usually just sign on with one of the other justices opinions?

    Again, I understand that oral arguments hardly if ever change any hearts or minds on the court, but I think they can be an important foundation for when the justices (the ones who might open the door to allow themselves to be swayed [i.e. Kennedy]) get together to hash it out.
  8. ThomsonONE

    ThomsonONE Member

    Opinions are assigned, not taken voluntarily. All nine justices meet, and vote on the case. If the Chief Justice is in the majority, he assigns the majority opinion writing to a justice voting in the majority. If the Chief Justice is in the minority, the most senior justice in the majority assigns the opinion. Anyone in the minority is free to write their own dissenting opinion. Usually one justice will write the dissent, circulate it, and if a minority justice doesn't agree with it, he/she will write their own. Thomas doesn't write many opinions, because he is rarely in the majority.
  9. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    thomson, they're assigned but the court is not a dictatorship, so people volunteer to write opinions. as i understand it, the chief justices asks who wants to write it and takes volunteers. it's up to him to choose who gets to write it, but to me, it defies logic to claim that in the 15 years on the bench thomas alone has been unfairly singled out by rehnquist and now roberts and not assigned to write.

    and i agree with point; it's not exactly a sign of intellligence that he never has questions to ask based on the briefs.
  10. ThomsonONE

    ThomsonONE Member

    I'm not defending his lack of opinion writing, but he doesn't get many oppotunities to write opinions since he's not usually in the majority. I'm guessing, but I can see Scalia's hand going up everytime he is. Since Thomas and Scalia would probably be voting together, there are even fewer opportunities for Thomas.

    Most opinions are written by the clerks, the justice just edits. Woodwards book "The Brethren" gives a good look at the workings of the court.
  11. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    Its not as if Thomas never writes an opinion. I just did a search for "Justice THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court" since January of 2000. In that time, Thomas has written 50 opinions. During that time, the Court has decided roughly 500 cases. For all of you math deficients, that puts Thomas at writing about 10% of the opinions of the court -- a respectable number. Considering that Kennedy and O'Connor were often selected to write opinions in a move of judicial politik (make the wavering vote write the opinion so they won't jump ship was a favorite Rehnquist tactic), I don't think it reflects poorly on Thomas at all.
  12. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    Interesting article on today's arguments at Slate.

    Money quote. Lithwick nails the bolded part.

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