Quiet Clarence Thomas Chides Talkative Supreme Court Justices

 @DanRivoli
on April 06 2012 6:25 PM
clarence thomas
"[Lawyers] have 30, 40 minutes per side for cases that are important to them and to the country. They should argue," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said of his penchant for staying quiet on the bench. Reuters/Jim Young

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is notoriously silent on the bench, suggested Thursday his colleagues should do more listening and less questioning during oral arguments.

Thomas has not asked a single question from the bench in the last six years, while the other eight justices occasionally interrupt attorneys with comments or questions to test the strength of their arguments.

The hot bench that has become a hallmark of the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts was on full display during last month's six hours of oral arguments on President Barack Obama's health-care law. During the Affordable Care Act hearings, the eight justices grilled lawyers on both sides of the case.

I don't see where that advances anything, Thomas said of questions during oral arguments, according to the Associated Press. Maybe it's the Southerner in me. Maybe it's the introvert in me, I don't know. I think that when somebody's talking, somebody ought to listen.

During a speech at the University of Kentucky, Thomas said lawyers were well-equipped to make their cases in the small amounts of time allotted for oral arguments.

They have 30, 40 minutes per side for cases that are important to them and to the country. They should argue. That's a part of the process, Thomas said.

I don't like to badger people. These are not children, added Thomas, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. The court traditionally did not do that [interrupt oral arguments]. I have been there 20 years. I see no need for all of that. Most of that is in the briefs, and there are a few questions around the edges.

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