Monday, February 25, 2008

The Silent Justice*

If a Supreme Court Justice doesn’t say a word in court, do they matter?

It’s been two years, and 142 cases, since SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas has said anything during oral arguments.

Every other Justice has asked questions, a lot of questions at that, but Thomas hasn't.

He doesn't ask questions... sure, he might lean to his right (in more ways than one) to share a comment or a laugh with Justice Breyer, but other than that – he’s as silent as Marcel Marceau.

The last time Justice Thomas asked a question in court was February 22, 2006 during a death penalty case out of South Carolina, but ever since then it’s been deafening silence on a plethora of cases that have been heard and dissected by the other Justices on the court, including 'newbies' John Roberts and Samuel (Sc)Alito.

Not Thomas though, he's been as silent on the bench as he was during his troubled confirmation amid allegations thrown at him by Anita Hill.

Granted, this isn’t new news as he broached his reticence on the bench in his autobiography, "My Grandfather's Son" when he wrote that questions may be helpful to the others but not to him (yeah, heaven forbid you try to get more information before making an informed decision).

And once, while speaking to the Federalist Society he said; "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question." Actually, I think you mean you can ‘hold this job without asking a single question’... because I certainly don’t think you’re doing this job...

This is coming up again because, with the court in session, questions are being asked by the Justices... except, of course, for Thomas.

I am not an attorney, but what I don't understand is how a judge, any judge, would be able to make an informed legal decision without asking questions...

Am I oversimplifying things? Am I making too much out of his silence?

I think, and remember this is only MY opinion, his silence speaks volumes about him... not only as a Justice, but as a person as well. If you don't ask questions, you may be mis-interpreting something, or you might have heard something incorrectly. Asking questions helps clear things up and gives more insight into the situation at hand.

But what do I know... I mean, I knew that Justice was blind, but I never knew that it was mute as well...

* cross-posted at Daily Kos

No comments: