Clarence Thomas breaks his silence and asks a good question
Justice Clarence Thomas stunned lawyers, reporters and others at the Supreme Court on Monday when he posed questions during an oral argument for the first time in 10 years.I find it rather amazing that no other justice asked a question with respect to the 2nd Amendment. It sounds like a point Ted Cruz has raised on gun rights issues.
It was the second week the court has heard arguments since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas' friend and fellow conservative. Thomas for years sat directly to Scalia's right. Scalia's chair is now draped in black in a tribute to his death on Feb. 13.
Thomas' questions came in a case in which the court is considering placing new limits on the reach of a federal law that bans people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns.
With about 10 minutes left in the hourlong session, Justice Department lawyer Ilana Eisenstein was about to sit down after answering a barrage of questions from other justices. Thomas then caught her by surprise, asking whether the violation of any other law "suspends a constitutional right."
But Thomas peppered Eisenstein with several questions about Second Amendment gun rights, a topic no other justice had asked about. He noted that the law allows someone convicted of a misdemeanor assault charge to get a lifetime ban on possessing a gun "which at least as of now results in suspension of a constitutional right."
"The suspension is not directly related to the use of a weapon?" Thomas asked.
Eisenstein said he was correct, but that Congress passed the law to prevent people accused of domestic violence from later using weapons against a family member. She noted that violating other laws can in some cases limit a person's free speech rights. Thomas then asked how long the suspension of the right to own a firearm lasts.
Eisenstein said it was indefinite.