For the past decade U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has asked nary a question during oral argument in cases before the high court — a point of considerable discussion and criticism over those years.
But today, in a somewhat low-profile case about gun ownership by individuals convicted of domestic violence, Thomas broke his self-imposed vow of silence, interrupting a prosecutor winding up her argument in favor of a gun ban.
“Ms. Eisenstein, one question,” Thomas said, followed by audible gasps in the courtroom.
“Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?”
Thomas then followed up with several more questions, stunning those inside and out of the courtroom and firing up plenty of reaction on social media.
His questions, coming just weeks after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia (beside whom he sat on the bench for seven years), prompted some to connect the two events.
“It was hard to escape the conclusion that the absence of the voluble Justice Scalia, who had dominated Supreme Court arguments for nearly 30 years on the bench, somehow liberated Justice Thomas and allowed him to resume participating in the court’s most public activity,” Adam Liptak of the New York Times wrote.
Below, a few highlights of reactions on social media.