McClatchy Tally: Clarence Thomas (Literally) Has Nothing to Say

By: Justice Clarence Thomas sat through 68 hours of oral arguments in the Supreme Court?s current term without uttering a word.

In nearly 16 years on the court, Thomas typically has asked questions a couple of times a term.

But the last time Thomas asked a question in court was Feb. 22, 2006, in a death penalty case out of South Carolina. A unanimous court eventually broadened the ability of death-penalty defendants to blame someone else for the crime.

A recent tally by McClatchy Newspapers underscored this point: Thomas has spoken 281 words since court transcripts began identifying justices by name in October 2004. By contrast, Thomas? neighbor on the bench, Justice Stephen Breyer , has uttered nearly 35,000 words since January.

A new book about Thomas, "Supreme Discomfort," by Washington Post reporters Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher, devotes an entire chapter to Thomas? courtroom reticence, calling it "one of his signature characteristics as a justice and a subject of ongoing fascination ? both in the legal community and among the public at large."

The release of same-day transcripts of court arguments was this term?s major technological advance. The court has more in store.


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