Ten Years of Silence: Will Justice Clarence Thomas Ever Speak Up Again?

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They say that silence is golden and, apparently, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas agrees. Everyone get out your party hats and balloons, because yesterday marked a ten year anniversary worth celebrating: Justice Thomas has officially gone an entire decade without asking a single question from the bench of the Supreme Court.

The last time Thomas uttered anything at all from the bench? A little over three years ago on January 14, 2013. The country erupted in cheers and excitement as Thomas spoke his first words in almost seven years of silence from the bench: “well–he did not–.” While these were the only words captured by the court transcript on that monumental day, spectators in the court claim that Thomas was making a tasteful joke about the uselessness of a law degree from his alma mater, Yale. The subsequent laughter recorded in the courtroom seems to support those claims.

The last time Thomas asked a question? Well, since yesterday marked the ten year anniversary of his inquisitive silence, that puts his last question on February 22, 2006. To put that into perspective, try to remember what you were doing on this day in 2006. Perhaps, re-watching the first “High School Musical” for the fiftieth time? Singing along to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway?” Maybe even getting excited about the release of the Nintendo DS Lite! 2006 was a long time ago. He asked the question in the middle of Holmes v. South Carolinaa contentious case about the death penalty. Ironically enough, the question almost seems like it was a statement in the form of a question:

Counsel, before you change subjects, isn’t it more accurate that the trial court actually found that the evidence met the Gregory standard?

After approximately eighteen lines of text in the court transcript (which has particularly large margins and is in a font much bigger than Times New Roman), the attorney Thomas had spoken up to correct was shut down, and Thomas returned to his state of hibernation for another few years. Who knows if he will ever speak again!

Thomas is supposedly a proponent of more listening on the Supreme Court and thinks that it is more in his nature to listen than to ask a bunch of questions. Well, hey, to each their own. If he thinks he can do his job best by just sitting back and taking it all in, he can go for it. You keep doing you, Justice Thomas!


Alexandra Simone
Alex Simone is an Editorial Senior Fellow at Law Street and a student at The George Washington University, studying Political Science. She is passionate about law and government, but also enjoys the finer things in life like watching crime dramas and enjoying a nice DC brunch. Contact Alex at



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