10 Years, 0 Questions From Clarence Thomas

Justice hasn't grilled a lawyer from the bench in a decade
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2016 11:21 AM CST
10 Years, 0 Questions From Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas doesn't like to ask questions from the bench.   (AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)

Clarence Thomas marked a quiet milestone on Monday: He's gone a decade now without asking a question from the bench of the Supreme Court. The last time he did so was on Feb. 22, 2006, notes NBC News. It's not just a record—"no other justice in modern history has gone more than a term without asking a question during oral arguments," writes Jon Schuppe. Over the years, Thomas has explained his rationale: Most of the work is done in submitted legal briefs, he's uncomfortable jousting with louder colleagues, and he generally thinks it's better to listen than to speak.

"I just think that it's more in my nature to listen rather than to ask a bunch of questions," he said in 2000. "And they get asked anyway." And in 2013, he said, “I think it’s unnecessary in deciding cases to ask that many questions, and I don’t think it’s helpful," per the New York Times. Critics say he's undercutting the importance of the oral arguments by not giving attorneys a chance to address his concerns, but his comments suggest that he won't be breaking his streak anytime soon. (He's not above cracking a joke, however.)

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