There is one way for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to get everyone’s attention and that is to ask question. Today Justice Thomas asked his first question since February of 2006 in an oral argument. Talking about his silence previously, the Justice maintained that he relies on the written briefs and doesn’t need to ask questions to the lawyers appearing in court. Critics think by declining to ask questions Thomas is neglecting his duties.
The case in court today was about a federal law that bans people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns. The question, which was posed around ten minutes before the end of the session and with lawyers nearly packing up, was if there were any other case where breaking a law suspends constitutional rights, even if that right was not directly related to the crime. For example one of the men at the center of the case pleaded guilty to simple assault after pushing his wife during an argument and leaving a mark. Eight years later police searched his home and discovered numerous firearms and ammunition and was then convicted under the gun law. Thomas continued to ask a few more questions involving the 2nd amendment.
Speculation over Thomas’ broken silence leads to Justice Scalia, who passed away this month and was close with Thomas. The two sat next to each other for seven years and he read scripture at Scalia’s funeral. Scalia was famous for being aggressive and asking sometimes combative questions, quite the opposite of Thomas.