U.S. Supreme Court

How long has Justice Thomas declined to ask oral argument questions? An anniversary nears

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Justice Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence Thomas.

It’s been nearly 10 years since Justice Clarence Thomas asked a question during oral arguments.

His last question was on Feb. 22, 2006, in a death penalty case, the New York Times reports in a Sidebar column.

Thomas has offered differing reasons for declining to talk, but he most often says he believes the constant questions are impolite. “I think we should listen to lawyers who are arguing their cases, and I think we should allow the advocates to advocate,” he said in 2013 at a Harvard Law School appearance.

The Sidebar columnist, Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak, wishes Thomas would reconsider.

Thomas “has a distinctive legal philosophy and a background entirely different from that of any other justice,” Liptak writes. “Were Justice Thomas to talk, people would listen.”

Liptak points to a 2002 comment by Thomas, when he shared his perspective on a Virginia law that barred cross burning. The cross was a symbol of a “reign of terror” during “almost 100 years of lynching,” he said.

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