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Clarence Thomas absent from Supreme Court for third straight day following hospitalisation for ‘infection’

Justice was taken to hospital on Friday night for ‘infection,’ court says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 23 March 2022 16:58 GMT
Related video: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Hospitalized With Flu-Like Symptoms

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been absent from the court for the third straight day after needing care for “flu-like symptoms”.

The court declined to say on Wednesday if Justice Thomas was still in hospital care, but his release had been expected to take place by Tuesday night.

Following the hospitalisation of Justice Thomas, 73, on Friday night, Chief Justice John Roberts said on Wednesday that he would take part using briefs and transcripts.

The court said on Sunday that Justice Thomas’ hospitalisation was prompted by an “infection”. They added on Monday that he doesn’t have Covid-19.

According to the court, Justice Thomas has been treated with intravenous antibiotics and they have said that “his symptoms are abating”.

On Wednesday morning, court spokeswoman Patricia McCabe said she had no update. Justice Roberts said Thomas was “unable to be present today” without explanation.

Justice Thomas has been on the court since 1991, after being nominated by President George HW Bush to succeed Justice Thurgood Marshall. Justice Thomas is currently the longest-serving justice on the high court.

The news of Justice Thomas’ hospitalisation came just before the Senate Judiciary Committee opened its hearings on Monday on the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom President Joe Biden has nominated to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

If confirmed, she would be the first Black woman on the court, but her confirmation would not change its ideological balance. Justice Thomas is the court’s second Black justice ever and one of six conservatives currently on the court. Justice Breyer is one of three liberals on the court.

Justice Thomas has no known health conditions, but justices make their own decisions about what health information to release and when. The court has said that all nine justices have received the Covid-19 vaccine and booster shot.

The court does occasionally release health and other information about various justices. Its website contains press releases going back to late 2002, including releases about health issues of other justices. Sunday’s news appeared to be the first time the court issued health information about Thomas in that way.

Other justices have participated in arguments remotely since the court started its term in the fall and some lawyers have as well.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh participated remotely from his home after testing positive for Covid-19 and Justice Sonia Sotomayor participated remotely from her office when coronavirus case counts were particularly high. Justice Neil Gorsuch also participated remotely after getting what the court described as a “stomach bug,” but testing negative for Covid-19.

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated remotely from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 2020 while hospitalised with an infection caused by a gallstone. At the time, all the justices were participating remotely and the court was hearing arguments by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The justices returned to in-person arguments in October after more than a year and a half of telephone arguments, but the courtroom is still closed to the public because of the pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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