According to the New York Times, Clarence Thomas broke a three year silence in the Supreme Court today. The Supreme Court justices were discussing race discrimination in jury selection when Justice Clarence Thomas spoke for the first time on the bench since 2016.
Originally, the justices seemed to be united in the opinion that a White Mississippi prosecutor’s efforts to exclude black jurors from the six trials of Curtis Flowers was unconstitutional. Flowers was convicted of murdering four people.
After the conclusion of Flowers’s lawyer’s argument, Thomas asked his first question from the bench since 2016. He asked if the defense lawyer from the sixth trial had struck any jurors. The lawyer answered yes, and Thomas followed up, asking the race of the jurors. They were white, according to the lawyer.
Before speaking in 2016, Thomas went a decade without asking a single question. His explanations for the silence have varied, but recently he said that the other justices asked so many questions that they were rude to the lawyers.
Around eight times per year, Thomas announces his majority opinions from the bench, and in 2013 Thomas spoke at an argument where he made a joke.
In his 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” Thomas wrote that he never asked questions in college or in law school, as he was intimidated by some of the other students. He also said he was self-conscious about the way he spoke with his Georgian accent, as he was teased about it previously. Most recently, though, he has said that his silence is due to simple courtesy.