*Something just happened that hadn’t occurred in 10 years; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas finally participated in opening questions.
In a case the court is hearing regarding whether people convicted of domestic violence should be prohibited from owning guns, he asked a federal government attorney several questions dealing with legal precedent and the Second Amendment.
“Can you think of another constitutional right that can be suspended based upon a misdemeanor violation of a state law?”
The last time Justice Thomas asked a question from the bench was in February 2006. Since then, the Yale graduate’s only other words during oral arguments before Monday were in 2013, when he apparently took a jab at rival Ivy League school Harvard.
Writer/attorney Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker that “by refusing to acknowledge the advocates or his fellow-Justices, Thomas treats them all with disrespect.”
But Thomas says it’s not about disrespect. He claims it’s more important to hear the case from advocates on both sides of the issue.
To him, it’s all about the written argument. In fact, he doesn’t really think oral arguments are all that important. In his estimation they only sway his fellow justices “in 5 or 10 percent of the cases, maybe, and I’m being generous there.”
So why would Thomas ask something now? The primary speculation is that it may be due to the absence of the late Antonin Scalia. Thomas and Scalia were both conservative, but Scalia was more talkative and likely asked many of the questions Thomas would’ve wanted to ask.