This week marks the the 25th anniversary of Justice Clarence Thomas’s first question as a justice. In anticipation of that upcoming anniversary on Nov. 5, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor RonNell Andersen Jones has spent the last six months collecting every question Justice Thomas has ever asked at oral argument as a jurist.
Along with co-author Aaron Nielson of Brigham Young University, it’s the first collection of its kind compiled. The two authors also completed an analysis of the questions in an article, “Clarence Thomas the Questioner,” accepted for forthcoming publication by the top-ranked Northwestern Law Review.
“Our conclusion is completely counterintuitive: Justice Thomas has been criticized for being largely silent from the bench, and many think that he should ask more questions because it is lazy, disrespectful, inattentive, unintelligent not to do so. Our argument comes from an entirely different direction,” said Jones.
“Based on our analysis, we think that Justice Thomas should ask more questions because it turns out that he is unusually good at it. Indeed, in many respects, he is the model questioner. His questions are always polite; he doesn’t wander or spin out crazy hypotheticals; he pays careful attention to the facts; and he doesn’t interrupt his colleagues. Everyone who follows the Court thinks of Justice Thomas as the justice who doesn’t ask questions. We think, however, that it might be useful, at this anniversary of his time on the bench, to focus on the content of the questions he does ask,” she said.
The analysis has received considerable media attention so far, including coverage in the following media outlets: