Summary: The Supreme Court was shocked today when Justice Clarence Thomas broke his decade long streak of silence during oral arguments.
After ten years of remaining silent during Oral Arguments, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas finally spoke. The breakthrough came on the same day that the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments again since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. Scalia and Thomas were closely aligned, or as some referred to as ideological soul mates.
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Scalia would also regularly defend Thomas for not speaking. As CNN contributor Stephen I. Vladeck explained, “No one was more ideologically aligned with Justice Scalia than Justice Thomas, who has historically been reluctant to ask questions at oral argument because he believes his colleagues already do more than enough talking. That he’s now asking questions – for the first time in over a decade – is as powerful evidence of the impact of Justice Scalia’s absence as anything we’ve seen from the Justices thus far.”
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The questions today from Thomas were directed at Illana H. Eisenstein, a government attorney, in the case of Voisine v. United States. The case is regarding whether a previous domestic assault conviction from reckless conduct qualifies as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, prohibiting the plaintiffs from firearm possession.
One of the questions Thomas asked Eisenstein was, “This is a misdemeanor violation. It suspends a constitutional right – Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?”
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Thomas has offered explanations as to why he usually remains silent in the past. Back in 2013 he said, “We have a lifetime to go back in chambers and to argue with each other.” The lawyers only have 30 minutes to present their case so “they should argue. That’s part of the process.” Plus Thomas said he doesn’t like to badger people.