The Silent Justice

February 18, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has gone nearly five years without asking a question during oral argument before the Court.  According to this New York Times story, his last question came on February 22, 2006 (H/T Wall Street Journal Law Blog).

To find Justice Thomas’s most recent question, we can search the Supreme Court Oral Argument Transcripts (located in the SCT-ORALARG database on, and available via the Trial & Oral Argument Transcripts category page on WestlawNext).  A search for Justice /2 Thomas & da(2/22/2006) returns just one transcript, Holmes v. South Carolina.  The transcript of that argument (2006 WL 496231) contains the last verbal interaction between Justice Thomas and a litigant before the Court.

Note: The database mentioned above contains transcripts beginning with the Court’s 1990-1991 term.  However, prior to October 2004, the Court did not indicate on the transcript which Justice had asked a specific question.  Instead, the generic term “Question:” was used to indicate that a member of the Court had asked a question.  Thus, when searching for older transcripts, one would not want to search by the Justice’s name as we did above.