Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas visited the University of Portland Thursday as part of the school's annual Red Mass. That's a Catholic prayer service held for judges and government officials.

Justice Thomas addressed a crowd in the Chiles Center, but he steered clear of controversy.

When a professor asked about his "originalist" approach to the Constitution, Thomas responded in generalities. He didn't venture near the subject of the Voting Rights Act. Thomas voted with the majority when the high court dismantled the law this past summer.

When student Joe Shorma asked him a question about how he chooses his law clerks, however, Thomas was candid. He said he searches for intellectual honesty and people he can trust. And he looks for clerks who did not graduate from Ivy League schools.

He said the Supreme Court is too heavily from Harvard and Yale.

"That doesn't reflect the country," Thomas said. "Why aren't there kids from this school? Why aren't there judges from Idaho? Montana? This is a big country."

Protesters who were reportedly planning to picket Justice Thomas's visit never showed up.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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