Patterico's Pontifications

12/19/2007

Justice Thomas Speaks at Chapman University

Filed under: General,Judiciary — Patterico @ 7:37 am



I got to shake Clarence Thomas’s hand Monday night.

Justice Thomas spoke at Chapman University. He was introduced by former Attorney General Edwin Meese and Chapman University law school dean John Eastman. He was there to discuss his book, and to sign books afterwards. Over 1000 people attended.

The evening opened up strangely.

When he was introduced, Justice Thomas received a lengthy standing ovation, and joked that he was going to quit while he was ahead. Immediately, a middle-aged woman standing smack-dab in the center of the audience stood up and began singing a song to him. It was clear from his uncertain expression that this was not a planned part of the festivities. Everyone in the room looked around at each other, thinking things like:

  • How long is this going to last? (It was probably a good 15 seconds.)
  • Is this woman unbalanced?
  • Is this woman going to stop singing and open fire on Justice Thomas?
  • Where is security?
  • For God’s sake, isn’t she done yet?

Finally, she finished. The song turned out to be complimentary, about how wonderful he was. Justice Thomas joked that now he really was going to quit while he was ahead. He said he was grateful for the pigmentation of his skin at that moment, because otherwise he would be visibly blushing. That got a good laugh, and he moved on with his prepared remarks.

Justice Thomas had some amusing stories to tell. He said when he first got to the Court, he was eating with Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice O’Connor, and Justice Stevens. He said he was telling them how awed and humbled he was to be there with them, and how he felt he didn’t belong. He imitated Chief Justice Rehnquist’s low voice saying:

Well, Clarence. The first five years you’re here, you wonder how you got here. After that, you wonder how your colleagues got here.

Asked the eternal question about why he doesn’t ask questions in oral argument, he gave his stock answer (this isn’t Perry Mason) and then told a story about how when the relatively quiet Justice White retired, the also quiet Harry Blackmun came up to Thomas, put his arms around him, and said: “Clarence, it’s just us now.” Then Thomas put his arms around himself and said: “Now I sometimes put my arms around myself and say, Clarence, it’s just you now.”

He did a book signing afterwards, and hundreds of people waited.

I had no idea what to say to him when I met him. I said something inane about how the last time I had seen him was the day Justice White retired. (I was at the Court that day.) And, obviously, that I admire him.

My wife said I blew it by failing to say something like: hey, you and I have something in common. We both got to hang out with Jan Crawford Greenburg. Thing is, that would have entailed explaining how it happened, and somehow it felt like it would have been self-absorbed and/or take too long to do that. In a two-minute conversation, I might have. But in a five- or ten-second conversation, with hundreds of people waiting behind me to have their books signed, it didn’t feel right.

Justice Thomas has a firm handshake, and a very personable manner. He says: hey, how you doin’, man? like you’re an old friend he hasn’t seen in a while.

All in all, it was an interesting and enjoyable experience. I wish his critics could have been there to see it.

The Orange County Register has more here, via Howard Bashman.

11 Responses to “Justice Thomas Speaks at Chapman University”

  1. By the way, I *think* the Blackmun story was about the retirement of Justice White, but I can’t remember for sure.

    Also, I have notes that say pig/religion. There is some funny story that has to do with those words that I don’t remember. If I remember it, I’ll update the post.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  2. He’s near the top of my list of people I’d love to sit down to a meal with.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  3. “I wish his critics could have been there to see it.”

    I’m not sure how far you would go in this wish. Perhaps you might announce the event with enough notice so that I and others might attend. Certainly would love to chat with you over cocktails.

    Semanticleo (a741a5)

  4. Patterico,

    You could have invited him to come to many more events as this is the type of PR that can’t be spun by the libs.

    PCD (09d6a8)

  5. Wish I’d been there. Anyone who has not read his biography is missing out.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  6. I’m sure a few of his critics would walk away thinking of changing their opinions perhaps at some later date and even fewer actually would. But the majority of his critics are married to the meme that Justice Thomas takes his cues from Scalia or that he’s an AA hire and they have little interest in discomforting themselves.

    It’s just an easier, simpler life when you’ve been told it’s okay to hate some black people.

    spongeworthy (45b30e)

  7. I like Clarence Thomas. I am more apt to concur with his decisions than anyone on the bench including Scalia: I admire Thomas’s reasoning and the path which leads him to his eventual siding with one party or another.

    He’s a good man, I strongly feel, and it’s always nice when two good men in the same similar profession get a chance to meet and express their appreciation. In this case, perhaps the appreciation was more one way, from you to Thomas, but that’s to be expected considering how much he’s accomplished. It doesn’t surprise me a bit he has a warm handshake and a friendly greeting.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  8. I had no idea what to say to him when I met him.

    In my humble neighborhood, I only get to see state judges. I got to talk with a retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice and his wife, a trial judge, on Thanksgiving. I told them a judge joke.

    nk (6061ba)

  9. The wonderful thing about being a liberal is that once your mind has been made up for you by the media and the most influential hate-mongers, you are spared the unnecessary effort of ever thinking again!

    So no, his critics (a) wouldn’t have been there and/or (2) wouldn’t have changed the tiniest bit of their opinion.

    Sad too, because Justice Thomas is a remarkable and inspiring man. I once made my own boss (a retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice) blush rosy read when I told him he was my 2nd favorite judge (Thomas being my absolute favorite). Craig considered it an enormous compliment – which is how it was meant!

    Gayle Miller (187b6e)

  10. I ALSO NEED TO LEARN TO PROOFREAD MY COMMENTS: I meant “rosy red”!

    Gayle Miller (187b6e)

  11. When I worked in the Senate, I would occasionally see Justice Thomas, or at least who I thought was Justice Thomas, and a gaggle of law clerks eating lunch in the Senate cafeteria. I wish I would have said something, however halting or stupid, while I had the chance.

    Fritz (babcd1)


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