Clarence Thomas Breaks 10 Years of Silence at Supreme Court

New York Times – by Adam Liptak

WASHINGTON — Breaking a decade-long silence, Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday asked several questions from the Supreme Court bench. He spoke just weeks after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose empty seat next to Justice Thomas’s remains draped in black.

It was hard to escape the conclusion that the absence of the voluble Justice Scalia, who had dominated Supreme Court arguments for nearly 30 years on the bench, somehow liberated Justice Thomas and allowed him to resume participating in the court’s most public activity.  

Justice Thomas’s questions came in a minor case on domestic violence convictions and gun rights. He asked a series of questions about whether misdemeanor convictions can permanently suspend a constitutional right.

The questioning started as the morning’s first argument was winding down and Ilana H. Eisentein, a lawyer for the federal government, uttered a common concluding sentence. “If there are no further questions,” she said.

“Ms. Eisenstein, one question,” he started, according to a transcript released by the court. “This is a misdemeanor violation. It suspends a constitutional right. Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?”

After some back and forth, Ms. Eisenstein said she could not think of one, though she added that First Amendment rights could be affected in comparable settings.

“O.K.,” he said. “So can you think of a First Amendment suspension or a suspension of a First Amendment right that is permanent?”

Here again, Ms. Eisenstein offered a concession. “Your Honor,” she said, “it’s not necessarily permanent as to the individual, but it may be permanent as to a particular harm.”

The barrage of sharp, pointed questions continued, with Justice Thomas seeming to have the better of several of the exchanges.

Justice Thomas last asked a question on Feb. 22, 2006, in a death penalty case. He spoke a total of 11 times earlier in that term and in the previous one.

He has offered shifting reasons for his 10 years of silence. In his 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” he wrote that he had never asked questions in college or law school and that he had been intimidated by some of his fellow students.

He has also said he is self-conscious about the way he speaks, partly because he had been teased about the dialect he grew up speaking in rural Georgia.

In Monday’s second argument, on judicial recusals, Justice Thomas was again quiet.

4 thoughts on “Clarence Thomas Breaks 10 Years of Silence at Supreme Court

  1. LoL. The jew york times wants me to think that Scalia is somehow responsible for ol Clarence being silent all these years.
    Jew on with your Liptaking self, Liptak.
    There’s some Jiggery Pokery goin on.

  2. Arghhh, none of the Bill of Rights can be suspended by any person serving in any position within our governments – state or general (federal). It lists the things forbidden to them, it lists the things that they are ALLOWED to do under specific circumstances and in a specific put-into-writing way.

    Maybe they missed some REQUIRED reading such as the Preamble to the Bill of rights on who is LIMITED or FORBIDDEN in their actions. Then some education on who delegated the authority that those who serve within our governments use, and it was NOT anyone who serve within our governments. The Bill of Rights is above and beyond the authority of any who serves within our governments and it makes it very clear if anyone reads it.

    Preamble to the Bill of Rights: “Congress OF THE United States begun and held at the City of New York, on Wednesday the Fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
    THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *