Clarence Thomas on silence

Clarence Thomas abstained for something like a decade from asking any questions during oral arguments. At the University of Kentucky a while ago he explained why:

“I don’t see where that advances anything,” he said of the justices’ questions, according to the Associated Press. “Maybe it’s the Southerner in me. Maybe it’s the introvert in me, I don’t know. I think that when somebody’s talking, somebody ought to listen.” …

We have a lifetime to go back in chambers and to argue with each other,” he said. “They have 30, 40 minutes per side for cases that are important to them and to the country. They should argue. That’s a part of the process….I don’t like to badger people. These are not children. The court traditionally did not do that. I have been there 20 years. I see no need for all of that. Most of that is in the briefs, and there are a few questions around the edges.”

It’s Thomas’s perspective here that reassures my sense of why bringing cameras into the Supreme Court would be harmful to the functioning of the court. Too much temptation for justices to talk simply to be seen talking and to appear wise, rather than listening to those making their case, referring to the briefs, and judging their best.

We live in a very loud culture. Anyone or anything observing silence as a means to combat (useless) loudness, is worth applauding.