Clarence Thomas returns to in-person oral arguments after illness, hospitalization

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas returned to the bench to hear oral arguments in person Monday for the first time since his hospitalization nearly a month ago for an undetermined viral illness.

Thomas heard oral arguments on several cases as a new session of the court began. After being released from the hospital, he read transcripts of arguments at home for a couple of weeks while he continued to recover.

He will still participate in rulings on the cases including oral arguments he wasn’t in person for, but he did not get to ask any questions during those arguments.

On Monday, he asked the first question and continued to participate the same way throughout the day.

A controversy

Thomas was hospitalized at Sibley Memorial Hospital, in Washington, D.C. on March 18 and released a week later, but he did not appear in public until April 8 when he posed for a photo with GOP Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker.

Doctors said that his illness was “flu-like,” but was not the flu or COVID-19.

While Thomas was hospitalized, news broke that his wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas, had exchanged emails with then-Donald Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the Jan. 6 Capitol breach and ways to keep Trump in power after his loss to President Joe Biden.

The emails were obtained after the Supreme Court voted 8–1 against blocking a select House committee from accessing them.

Thomas was the only dissenting vote in the ruling, fueling speculation that he was trying to hide his wife’s involvement.

 Calls to recuse

One of the emails by Ginny Thomas suggested that her “best friend” would support efforts to keep Trump in office. She commonly refers to Justice Thomas as her “best friend.”

The news led to Democrats calling for Thomas to recuse himself from any future Jan. 6 or Trump election cases. Thomas has not responded to the calls or said that he would recuse himself.

There has been no evidence presented indicating that Justice Thomas knew about the emails or his wife’s statement about his support for Trump in election-related cases.

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