Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas created quite a stir Monday when he spoke for the first time in a decade during oral arguments, CNN reports.
Thomas reportedly directed his questions to government attorney Ilana H. Eisenstein in the case Voisine v. United States. His questions concerned whether a previous domestic-assault conviction based on reckless conduct could block plaintiffs from having a firearm.
“Everyone leaned in, disbelieving,” Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, who was in the courtroom, said. “The colloquy went back and forth several times, with Thomas pressing the assistant solicitor general.”
“This is a misdemeanor violation,” Thomas said, beginning his questioning. “It suspends a constitutional right. Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?”
According to the New York Times, Thomas last asked a question in court Feb. 22, 2006, in a death penalty case. He has reportedly offered numerous reasons for why he rarely speaks.
The Times notes that in his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, he wrote that he never asked questions in college or law school and was intimidated by some of his peers. He has also reportedly said that he is self-conscious about how he speaks, partially because of some teasing he endured regarding the dialect he grew up speaking in rural Georgia, the Times reports.