Justice Clarence Thomas Stuns Courtroom by Asking First Question in 10 Years — Here’s What He Asked

Justice Clarence Thomas did on Monday what he hasn’t done for 10 years – and that is ask a question from the bench during a Supreme Court oral argument.

Image source: AP
Image source: AP

The moment was so rare that one reporter inside the courtroom tweeted that someone next to him muttered a profane two-word response under her breath.

The case being argued had to do with gun ownership and domestic violence cases, and whether convicts involved in such cases should be banned from owning firearms, CNN reported.

Thomas mouthed his inquiry just when it “actually looked like he wasn’t going to speak,” BuzzFeed reporter Chris McDaniel tweeted. A government attorney, Ilana Eisenstein, had just said, “if there are no further questions…” when Thomas reportedly made his first oral argument probe in more than a decade.

“Ms. Eisenstein, one question,” Thomas said, prompting someone next to McDaniel to respond, “Holy s***.”

Thomas continued what became the first in a series of questions.

“Can you give me – this is a misdemeanor violation. It suspends a constitutional right. Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?” Thomas asked.

Thomas made a statement from the bench during an oral argument in 2013, but it was merely a one-line joke – not a question. The last time Thomas asked a question from the bench was Feb. 22, 2006, the Associated Press reported.

The historic moment came just days after the death of fellow conservative justice Antonin Scalia, who often spoke up and asked questions during Supreme Court oral arguments.

Some legal experts and pundits have already speculated that with Scalia’s absence on the court, Thomas is perhaps now more likely to ask questions more often going forward.