Here's What Clarence Thomas' Joke About Yale Yesterday Really Meant

Clarence Thomas

Photo: Joeff Davis via Flickr

Clarence Thomas finally spoke during oral arguments yesterday after a nearly seven-year silence, and it’s pretty clear he was making a joke at the expense of Yale.The Supreme Court transcriber failed to capture Thomas’ entire utterance, apparently because everybody around him was drowning out his words with their laughter.

SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein was actually in the courtroom, and he says Thomas quipped that a lawyer’s degree from Yale might make the attorney “incompetent” to represent a death penalty defendant.

At first blush, Thomas might have been making a bitter reference to his longstanding feud with his alma mater.

Thomas complained in his memoir of “paternalistic big-city whites” at Yale Law, saying its affirmative action policies also made it tough for him to find a job because employers assumed he was unqualified.

But nobody would actually think Thomas’ one-liner, in context, was really an attack on Yale, Goldstein writes. Goldstein says the line was likely a self-deprecating sign of improved relations with Yale.

Indeed, Thomas seems to be mending his relationship with Yale.

While he previously refused to even have his portrait hung in the hall there, Thomas made headlines in June when he agreed to be a keynote speaker at Yale.

“In my opinion, the joke was made in the voice of a person who was very comfortable associating himself with the institution,” Goldstein writes.

SEE ALSO: This Might Be Why Clarence Thomas Didn’t Speak For Nearly Seven Years >

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