In a recent post, I presented three ways that Justice Clarence Thomas might respond to the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a man he closely followed on Supreme Court decisions. One: He will be haunted by and faithful to the ghost of the dead Justice. Two: He becomes erratic, like the instruments on a plane that's entered the Bermuda Triangle. And three: He leaves the shadow of his master and becomes a new man—like Jeffrey Wright's black character in the movie Ride with the Devil.
Today, we finally got an answer: Clarence has decided to channel the ghost of Scalia. He made this decision apparent by simply talking from the bench for the first time in a decade. It happened in the course of a case, Voisine v. United States, that involved domestic violence and gun ownership.
Stephen Voisine was convicted of “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caus[ing] bodily injury or offensive physical contact” to his partner during a dispute and as a consequence lost his right to own a firearm (that's the law). But Voisine argued that "recklessly" causing violence shouldn't be in the same legal category with, and so punished (the loss of the right to own guns) the same as, "intentionally" causing violence.
As the solicitor representing the US, Ilana H. Eisenstein, was getting ready to close the matter on her end, Clarence Thomas opened his mouth and words came out in the form of a question. This break of a decade-long silence stunned the whole court. It was as if they had just heard and seen a ghost ("We in the press section nearly fell out of our seats"). And indeed they had! It was the ghost of Scalia, and, obviously, he sided with Voisine.
The US now has a spirit medium in its highest court. After the color of his skin, this might be the blackest thing about Thomas. In the country (Zimbabwe) and region (Southern Africa) of my birth, black Africans who communicate with and channel the dead are called nyangas. In South Africa, it is estimated that 80 percent of black Africans regularly consult nyangas. They are also regarded as tourist attractions.