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Harvard Law Dean Interviews Justice Thomas

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by Publius
Posted February 20, 2013, 12:49 PM

On her blog, Professor Ann Althouse calls attention to a recent interview of Justice Thomas:

"I loved the D.C. Circuit... and I could've stayed there. But I think I got maneuvered into this job. And then I had a really bad interview."

Said Clarence Thomas in this wonderful hour-long conversation with Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. The Harvard law students give him a standing ovation as he arrives in the room, and he jokes "I should quit while I'm ahead."

In fact, he goes on to be warm, interesting, deep, smart, and there's just way too much good stuff in here for me to quote everything that jumps out, because, really, everything jumps out. If you skip over the long introduction and get to the first question, he talks about growing up among illiterate but good and loving people and then discovering reading at a segregated library in Savannah. The librarians introduced him to Dr. Seuss.

Minow and Thomas talk about their mutual love for a book about introversion called "Quiet," and Thomas characterizes himself as very introverted. He talks about working in all 3 branches of government and greatly preferring the judiciary because in the EEOC and in the legislature, though he loved the people, it was too political. "I don't understand politics.... It made my head hurt.... It was like new math."

ADDED: He says Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan are delightful. When Kagan arrived, he said to her: "You know, it's going to be a joy disagreeing with you for years to come."

AND: At oral arguments, Justice Breyer doodles stick figures. The 2 of them sit together at oral argument and share jokes and laugh. "You know, he's very smart, but he's sort of a moving around smart," he says, making a gesture as if he were moving Breyer's little stick figures around. "And I tend to be someone, I lock into something, I want to think it through for a long time, and he likes to move around, and I sort of rein him in. Every so often, what I'll is I'll say, 'What about this, Steve?' and he'll pop up and ask and a question." So that's how Clarence Thomas asks questions at oral argument. Thomas laughs because it's "just something I'm throwing out," and Breyer makes it into a question. 

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