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Clarence Thomas inexplicably absent from Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not attend oral arguments on Monday morning, with no explanation for his absence.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced Justice Thomas was “not on the bench today” meaning he would not attend the oral arguments for the two cases being heard at the court. But Justice Roberts assured that Justice Thomas would still “participate fully” in the cases via briefs and transcripts.

Justice Thomas, 75, did not virtually attend the arguments either – justices will occasionally do this when they are ill.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases, one having to do with the Fourth Amendment and another related to a federal anti-bribery law.

Typically, when justices are unable to attend oral arguments the court will explain why. When Justice Thomas was admitted to the hospital for an infection in 2022, the court provided updates on his health.

In 2021, the court disclosed Justice Brett Kavanaugh could not attend Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s investiture because he tested positive for Covid-19. When the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent a surgical procedure in 2020, the court press office released a statement informing the public of it.

The Supreme Court’s Public Information Office did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

Associate US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas poses for the official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on October 7, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

There is no law or policy requiring the Supreme Court or justices to disclose health issues, personal matters or injuries related to absences.

However, the court, and justices, have come under scrutiny in recent years for failing to be transparent with the public. Much of the backlash arose from justices not disclosing financial or personal ties to cases or lawyers arguing cases at the court.

Justice Thomas found himself at the centre of the criticism after ProPublica revealed his close friendship with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. Justice Thomas enjoyed luxurious vacations with Mr Crow but did not make note of them on his yearly financial disclosure report.

In response to the backlash, the Supreme Court issued a nonbinding code of ethics for justices.

Justice Thomas is currently the oldest and longest-serving judge on the Supreme Court. He was appointed by George H W Bush in 1991.


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