Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thomas and Oral Argument

Here's Jan Crawford Greenburg's interview with Justice Clarence Thomas on why he doesn't speak up often at oral argument:
THOMAS: I think when people are invited in to make their case, we should listen. It's not a debate society. This is not a seminar.

And when I first came on the Court, there were far fewer questions, and there were so many more opportunities to have a conversation with a lawyer, not the sort of family feud type environment that we have now.

I think that that's not as productive as actually having a conversation, and I do think it's important that we listen to people. You know, I think it's wonderful, what a great country. You can have a case, you can come all the way to the Supreme Court, and you can say your piece.

There are times I've gone across the country, and I'll meet a small town lawyer who says, "You know, I was up at your Court and they never let me say what I wanted to say."

That isn't what I want to hear. I prefer to hear, "I made it all the way to Court and I got to tell you what I really thought."

Now, it may not change my mind, it may not change my colleagues' minds, but you have the satisfaction of having come and said your piece, and I think we should listen.

(Is that why you generally save your questions, when you ask them, until the end?)

THOMAS: Well, usually, there's such a seamless series of questions that you can't get in unless you elbow your way in, and I don't think that's necessary. I don't think we need all those questions, and I think it's unseemly to have to elbow my way in, interrupt counsel or interrupt my colleagues to get a question in.
There's more; check it out.

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