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US Supreme Court

Confusion over rare remark by Justice Thomas due to transcript error

Posted Jan 23, 2013 6:25 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Clarence Thomas.
Photo: The Oyez Project.

Confusion over a rare remark from the U.S. Supreme Court bench earlier this month by Justice Clarence Thomas wasn't, it turns out, due to a lack of clarity on his part.

A transcription error, now corrected, eliminated five of the nine words he spoke, and they were, indeed, a joke about the law school an attorney attended, Reuters reports.

The justices had been hearing about the qualifications of two court-appointed lawyers. The lawyer representing the state of Louisiana in the case noted that one was Yale-educated ("very impressive) and the other was Harvard-educated ("very exceptional).

The official transcript recorded four words by Thomas at this point: "Well—he did not—.”

The revised transcript has him saying: "Well, there—see he did not provide good counsel." Reuters notes that everyone on the current Supreme Court bench graduated from either Harvard or Yale.

The clarification leaves Thomas with an unbroken record of not having asked a question from the bench since Feb. 22, 2006, the article notes.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Justice Thomas speaks for first time in nearly 7 years, but what did he say?"

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