(TargetLiberty.org) – Significant changes are coming to the US Supreme Court in October. It plans to return to in-person arguments for the first time since May 4, 2020, when it switched to a more streamlined remote video conferencing debate process to reduce COVID-19 risks. Now, according to Fox News, analysts have a spotlight on Justice Clarence Thomas, who became surprisingly outspoken while serving via teleconferencing.
From Silence to Participation
Justice Thomas has a history of staying silent during Supreme Court oral argument sessions. The conservative judge, who former President George Bush first appointed in 1991, often refrained from asking questions for years at a time.
In fact, before the shift to teleconferencing in 2000, Judge Thomas had asked just two questions in the preceding 20-year period — one in 2016, and another in 2019.
Justice Thomas says his refusal to probe for the facts was less about not wanting to chime in and more about respect for the process. He often felt his colleagues spent far too much time interrupting case lawyers — sometimes while they were in the middle of making a point.
This back-and-forth tended to make oral argument sessions intense and sometimes confusing. Thomas likely saw his silence as a tool to avoid contributing to that chaos.
Yet, remote sessions somehow transformed him into a regular participant who probed for info quite often. Just what was it about the new process that inspired him to jump in and take part? And more importantly, how likely is he to keep asking questions in October?
An Uncertain Future
Over the last year, The Supreme Court has had a more streamlined and organized teleconferencing process. Rather than becoming a free-for-all, lawyers took turns presenting information to the court. Justices then had a select amount of time to ask questions and probe for details without interruption from others, in order of seniority.
Analysts have also commented on how the improved organization seemed to facilitate a smoother overall process. Could this orderly fashion of events have played a role in empowering Justice Thomas to use his voice more often?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to ascertain if Judge Thomas will continue this pattern after October as of right now. It isn’t clear whether the courts plan to keep the current more streamlined procedure in place during in-person sessions. If the Supreme Court becomes a free-for-all once again, the conservative justice may once again fall silent.
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