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Doug Landau
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Questions for Justice Thomas

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Justice Thomas has gone 5 years without asking a single question from the bench of the United States Supreme Court (!) according to recent NPR news reports.

In my prior post, I wrote about a great Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. A man of courage, conviction and honor. By asking the lawyers for the people coming before the court relevant and revealing questions, the advocates can learn what issues are important to the Nation’s highest judges and respond. If the justices ask no questions, then the attorneys do not know what the judges are thinking. For all they know, the judges clerks, who are the "cream of the law school crop" are writing the opinions.

Having been to oral argument at the Nation’s high court, I have seen judges close their eyes, talk amongst themselves and sometimes even look bored. But they ALL asked questions. The people who had struggled for years to get an audience with them at least had a clue as to what was important and what needed further clarification. But with Justice Thomas, one must surmise that he holds the people coming to the court with such contempt, that they do not warrant speaking to in front of the gallery and other justices. Or, he is afraid to open his mouth in open court ? His record for lack of open intellectual curiosity is astounding. Humans are communicative animals. Not communicating in such a setting is troubling to say the least.

I would have admiration for Clarence Thomas if he had, when asked to be a Supreme Court nominee, said "I am not qualified Mr. President." Why can’t people asked to serve beyond their abilities say they are not ready or not prepared ? That would have been honest. And intellectual honesty and the open exchange of ideas is what is needed on the Supreme Court of the United States. I tell all ABRAMS LANDAU law clerks that the bulwark of the American Constitution is "NOTICE" and "AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD." Justice Thomas’ silence deprives those with their final appeals both mainstays of our national fabric. And that I why I question our "silent Justice."

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  1. M. Hirshberg says:
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    I am as appalled as you are about Judge Thomas’ silence. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for the attorneys who are presenting their cases and for the citizens they are representing. It surely exhibits a lack of intelligence; we all knew that it was the smartest students in the class that asked the most questions. These queries enlightened all of us. Thanks for publicizing Judge Thomas’ outrageous behavior.