This morning, to the surprise of lawyers, reporters, and his fellow judges, Justice Clarence Thomas spoke up in court for the first time in ten years, reports NBC Washington.
It is highly unusual for a justice to be as taciturn as Thomas. Some are merely curious about his silence, while others have criticized it more heavily, saying that by being silent he is neglecting his duties as a justice. In response to both parties, Thomas has said that he relies on the written briefs and, therefore, does not need to ask questions in court.
The last time Thomas asked a question in court was on Feb. 22, 2006. Perhaps the breaking of his 10-year silence has something to do with the death of his friend, colleague, and fellow conservative Antonin Scalia.
What was the case that finally made Clarence Thomas break his silence? It involved the court considering placing new limits on the extent of the ability of the federal law to ban people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns. Thomas took Justice Department lawyer Ilana Eisenstein by surprise near the end of the session and asked her whether the violation of any other law “suspends a constitutional right.”
When he spoke up in court, Clarence Thomas proved that he certainly is not silent just because he has nothing to say. It is truly fascinating that, of all the cases that the Supreme Court has heard in the last ten years, this is the one that Thomas is so invested in that he felt compelled to speak up about. His questions were, without a doubt, in keeping with his highly Conservative nature. The cases involved two men from Maine, who believe that their being guilty of hitting their partners should not disqualify them from owning a firearm. Their reasoning? Their acts of abuse were committed in the heat of an argument and were not intentional.
Because of Clarence Thomas’s large periods of silence on the Supreme Court, he is unknown to many. To learn a little more about him, watch this clip from an interview below, courtesy of The Federalist Society via YouTube.
Featured image is a screenshot from the video.