U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is making headlines again – but this time, it’s not about his refusal to recuse himself from the Jan. 6 case. Instead, people are trying to figure out why he was absent from Monday’s oral arguments – especially since no reason was given for his absence. 

Who Is Justice Clarence Thomas? 

Clarence Thomas is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who was nominated by then-President George H.W. Bush to replace Thurgood Marshall in 1991. He’s one of six conservative justices on the bench today. 

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He’s also the second African American to serve on the Supreme Court, is the longest-serving member of the court (since Anthony Kennedy left in 2018), and is the oldest serving member of the court – he turns 76 years old on June 23. 

Supreme Court Heard Two Cases On Monday

The Supreme Court of the United States convened on Monday (April 15) to hear oral arguments for two cases. The first case involved federal antibribery law, where former Portage, Indiana, mayor James Snyder, is being accused of accepting a bribe – which he says was a gift. 

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The second case – dubbed Chiaverini v. City of Napoleon, Ohio – questioned whether police officers could be sued if they had probable cause for some, but not all, of the charges that led to an arrest. 

Not Present At Court For Oral Arguments

On Monday, only eight of the nine Supreme Court Justices were on hand to hear oral arguments for both of those cases – Clarence Thomas was the lone justice missing. His absence came as a surprise and, while many people questioned it, no one had an answer as to why. 

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His absence caused quite the speculation online, especially given his old age. But since no one was giving any details of his absence, the real reason why he missed Monday’s arguments may never be disclosed. 

Chief Justice Acknowledges Thomas’s Absence

Before arguments commenced on Monday, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged Thomas’s absence, but failed to give a reason or excuse for it. All he said was that he ‘is not on the bench today’ – leaving the entire nation wondering what happened. 

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While he wasn’t in court on Monday, Chief Justice Roberts said Thomas will still ‘participate fully’ in the two cases. During his absence, Thomas was given briefs and transcripts to review so he could stay up-to-date on the arguments. 

Courts Usually Give Reason For Absences

It’s not unusual for a Supreme Court Justice to miss arguments – though they do their best to be present at all times. What’s unusual is the fact that Americans weren’t given a reason for his absence, especially since a reason is almost always given. 

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That doesn’t mean there’s something fishy going on, but even if there isn’t, it’s not a good look for the Supreme Court and certainly not a good look for Justice Thomas. Whether he was dealing with something serious or a small illness, citizens have a right to know. 

Justice Neil Gorsuch Was Absent In February

In February 2023, Justice Neil Gorsuch was absent for arguments in a case that saw a family attempt to hold Google liable for the death of their daughter – who died in a terrorist attack in Paris nearly a decade ago. 

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The Supreme Court acknowledged Gorsuch’s absence and added that he was feeling ‘a little under the weather.’ While he wasn’t there in person, he participated in the arguments over the phone and suggested that the case be sent back down to a lower court. 

Clarence Thomas Was Hospitalized In 2022 

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time Justice Thomas has missed oral arguments. The 75-year-old lawyer and jurist was hospitalized in March 2022 after experiencing flu-like symptoms. They clarified that he didn’t have COVID-19. 

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“He underwent tests, was diagnosed with an infection, and is being treated with intravenous antibiotics,” the court’s press release said at the time. “His symptoms are abating, he is resting comfortably, and he expects to be released from the hospital in a day or two.”

Thomas Returned To The Bench On Tuesday

Justice Thomas wasn’t in court on Monday, but his absence only lasted one day, and he was back on the bench on Tuesday. Unfortunately for those interested in why he was gone, he failed to give a reason and didn’t speak about his absence. 

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It was an important day, though. The Supreme Court Justices were tasked with interpreting an obstruction law that was passed by Congress as a result of the 2002 Enron scandal. 

Asked The First Question About Jan. 6 Insurrection

Clarence Thomas didn’t waste any time getting back into the swing of things. In fact, he asked the first question of the day – regarding whether or not police officers can charge Jan. 6 defendants with obstruction for interrupting Congress during the 2020 election. 

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“How do we determine what these two provisions have in common?” Thomas asked. “Do we look after the `otherwise’ or before and why?”

Faces Backlash Over Jan. 6 Comments

During the arguments on Tuesday, Thomas asked a lawyer representing the Department of Justice if the US government had ever charged anyone in the past with obstruction of an official proceeding. His question was met with immediate backlash. 

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In a post on X, Jeffrey Toobin accused Thomas of ‘minimizing the severity of the 1/6 insurrection at the Capitol.’ He suggested that it might be because ‘his wife was part of the conspiracy’ and called it a ‘disgrace’ that he refuses to recuse himself from the case. 

Thomas’s Wife Supported Trump’s Election Fraud Claims

Clarence Thomas has been married to Ginni Thomas, an American attorney and conservative activist, for 37 years (since 1987). Unfortunately, their marriage has been at the center of controversy over Ginni’s past connection to the Trump Administration. 

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According to The Hill, Ginni Thomas reportedly exchanged emails with John Eastman – who played a major role in trying to get Donald Trump to stay in office after losing the election to Joe Biden. On numerous occasions, Ginni appeared to support Trump’s election fraud claims. 

Justice Thomas Refuses To Recuse Himself

Since his wife technically played a role in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election – which eventually resulted in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol – many people believe Justice Thomas shouldn’t be involved in the Jan. 6 case. 

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Despite millions of people calling for him to recuse himself from the case – which would disqualify himself from judging or making decisions on the case – Justice Thomas is refusing to do so, and appears intent on finishing the case.