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June 13, 2017

Clarence Thomas the Questioner

One of Justice Clarence Thomas’s most remarked upon characteristics is his reluctance to ask questions during oral argument. Observers have criticized him for his silence, with some suggesting that it reflects disrespect for his colleagues and the advocates appearing before the Supreme Court. Others defend his silence, noting, for instance, that historically oral argument played a much less significant role and that Thomas’s written opinions speak for themselves. What has been overlooked in this debate, however, is the fact that Justice Thomas is very talented at asking questions. Indeed, in many ways, he is a model questioner. Drawing on the most comprehensive collection of Thomas’s oral argument questions ever compiled, we urge the Justice to ask more questions for a new reason: he is good at it.