Sleepy Awakes: Justice Thomas Speaks in Supreme Court Hearing, Or Does He?

Like Rip Van Winkle awakening from a long sleep, Justice Clarence Thomas made headlines this week by coming awake for a brief instant during a Supreme Court hearing. After years of silence during hearings, the Justice’s wakefulness left political observers stunned.

“It’s been 40 years since any justice went a full year on the bench without a comment,” said George P.D.Q. Snodgrass, professor of politics at Oral Roberts University in Beef Fritter, Texas. “Thomas has slept through 7 years of hearings, a record by any account.”

Commentators are speculating about Thomas’ naps during Supreme Court hearings; some claim he’s resting his eyes, others that he’s bored, and some that trying to keep up with his wife’s late night escapades with various conservative lobbying firms leaves him sleep deprived. Several times in the past, Supreme Court hearings were suspended to check his pulse to see if he was still alive.

“Justice Thomas was appointed during a period when conservatives were attacking the Court for being activist and he’s responded favorably to their criticism,” said Betty D. Belch, CEO of Beretta Law School in Renegade, Florida. “Justice Thomas is the least active of any living justice. At times, he vies with dead justices for inactivity. He is out of step with today’s conservative Court, which is the most activist Court in recent memory, as they overturn decades of legal precedent.”

A furious debate rages over whether the Justice actually said anything or, on waking from a slumber, he was merely talking in his sleep. Some claimed he made a joke at the expense of lawyers. During the discussion, Justice Antonin Scalia made a wisecrack about Harvard Law School, which 7 of the current justices attended. “Welllll, he-ba-nita,” some heard Thomas mumble. Others thought he suggested that having a degree from Yale, which he attended on a minority preference scholarship that he now adamantly opposes, showed lawyers before the Court are stupid. Thomas is famous for denying that Supreme Court Justices have to know anything or hold any degrees to sit on the bench.

“My barber, my dog walker, and house cleaner know more than most of the lawyers in the country,” he once commented.

This is only the latest controversy surrounding Justice Thomas, who never allows Supreme Court hearings to interfere with his nap schedule. During the last election, questions arose about his wife, Ginny’s blond hair, which led some to ask, “Does she, or doesn’t she?” Additional questions arose about her $250,000 salary, listed on income tax forms as “serving refreshments at various Tea Party function,” once he was caught lying about her receiving no outside income.

Additional questions arose when a Senate lawyer, Lilly McUsedup urged Thomas to resign after he ended their 20-year affair. She claimed he had dangerously “corrupted public morality.” Supporters were dismayed that Thomas could remain awake long enough to have an affair, while others suggested that his pillow was the least interesting of any Justice on the bench. The controversy abated once it was pointed out that the rest of Washington had no concept of morality whatsoever.

“Scandal, smandel,” said David Crouch, CEO of Christians for Capitalism and author of Laughing all the way to the Bank. “Justice Thomas, or Judgie as we call him in private, is the most upstanding, upright, upholding upholder anywhere. Unlike many Congressmen, you can’t sleep with him. The minute he falls asleep, he snores like a God damn log!”

Defenders rushed to the Justice’s side claiming he’s intimidated by others and afraid to speak, he can’t talk without a cigar in his mouth, and he only talks freely at rich conservative events where they pay for the privilege of hearing him. Others claim that the Justice’s record of napping during Court hearings remains unbroken because he actually didn’t say anything.

Thomas said, “As long as I vote right, resist change and keep the right people doin’ what they been doin’ since my grandfather was a slave, people shouldn’t criticize me. After all, when President Reagan (or was it Bush, appointed me) he agreed that I’d never have to do anything if I just kept my mouth shut.”

Don Monkerud is an California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. He is the author of America Unhinged: Politics and Pandemic in the 2020 Election (2021). He can be reached at: Read other articles by Don.