For 10 years, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been essentially mute but broke that decade-long trend on Monday (Feb. 29). Justice Thomas shocked reporters and observers with the series of questions, of which was related to a domestic abuse case and the Second Amendement.
As reported by the Huffington Post, Thomas posed his first question this morning afrer Assistant Solicitor General Ilana Eisenstein asked if the justices had any question at the close of a hearing. Thomas wasn’t expected to speak but when he did, he definitely turned heads.
“Can you give me another area [of law] where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?” Thomas asked Eisenstein, who was arguing that a federal ban on gun ownership for people who are convicted of low-level domestic violence offenses at the state level should apply if the offense was committed “recklessly.”
A strange silence fell over the courtroom. For what seemed like five minutes straight, and in the course of no less than 10 questions, Thomas really wanted to get to the bottom of whether the federal gun prohibition for domestic violence violators — known as the Lautenberg Amendment — infringed on a fundamental right.
He wanted to know “how long” the suspension of Second Amendment rights was for people prohibited under federal law to possess firearms, and he pressed Eisenstein to name any other legal analog where the federal government could permanently curtail constitutional rights following a conviction for an unrelated offense.
“Let’s say that a publisher is reckless about the use of children, and what could be considered indecent displays and that that triggers a violation of, say, a hypothetical law against the use of children in these ads,” he said.
After that setup, he asked: “Could you suspend that publisher’s right to ever publish again?”
The New York Times speculates that Thomas may have been moved to speak in the absence of the late Justice Antonin Scalia as both men held fast to the concept of following the Constitution of the United States as it was intended by the original authors.
HuffPost adds that the Voisine v. United States case was not focused on the Second Amendement. The publication noted that Thomas is a strong supporter of the right to bear arms.
Photo: By Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States – Clarence Thomas – The Oyez Project, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14719940