It has been a decade, but for the first time in a long time today, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke during oral arguments.
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Many people attribute the outburst to be a result of the death of Justice Scalia, who tended to take the forefront of issues and do the speaking.
"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," said CNN contributor Stephen I. Vladeck. "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," he said.
The comments in this case were to government attorney Ilana H. Eisenstein in a case called Voisine v. United States. According to CNN, the case is about whether or not a prior domestic assault conviction from reckless conduct qualifies as a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence that would block the plaintiffs from possessing a firearm.
"Everyone leaned in disbelieving," said a court room visitor. "The colloquy went back and forth several times with Thomas pressing the Assistant Solicitor General," Lithwick said.
"This is a misdemeanor violation," Thomas said at one point to Eisenstein. "It suspends a constitutional right—Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?" he asked.
Thomas has been very adamant about his silence in previous years. "We have a lifetime to go back in chambers and to argue with each other," Thomas said in 2013. He cited the time limit of 30 minutes to argue a case. "They should argue. That's a part of the process." Thomas has also said that he doesn't like to "badger people."
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Could this be a result of Scalia's passing and Justice Thomas wants their side to be heard? That's what it looks like.