Thursday, February 28, 2008

Questions are for the little people

From Associated Press:
WASHINGTON - Two years and 144 cases have passed since Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last spoke up at oral arguments. It is a period of unbroken silence that contrasts with the rest of the court's unceasing inquiries. Hardly a case goes by, including two appeals that were argued Monday, without eight justices peppering lawyers with questions. Oral arguments offer justices the chance to resolve nagging doubts about a case, probe its weaknesses or make a point to their colleagues. Left, right and center, the justices ask and they ask and they ask. Sometimes they debate each other, leaving the lawyer at the podium helpless to jump in. [...] Leaning back in his leather chair, often looking up at the ceiling, Thomas takes it all in, but he never joins in.
I don't see why people are surprised. Questions imply uncertainty and Thomas is the human embodiment of certainty. (Insecure, bitter, resentful, smouldering chip-on-the-shoulder certainty, mind, but certainty nonetheless.)

Thomas is an immovable idealogue, a partisan who does not trouble at any point -- or to any degree -- to conceal that single-mindedness. Why need he ask questions? He has the answers he likes and wants, and will provide the judgments to match. The parties, facts or law are merely irritants to be ignored.


Alec Leamas said...

Good Sir, are you aware that Appellate Courts receive what we lawyers call Briefs, which are substantial, bound documents containing all of each respective parties' legal arguments with citations to authority and the record? You see, the oral arguments are theater, and wholly unneccessary.

seeker6079 said...

Skeezix, I've argued appellate cases, so I'm more than just a bit familiar with that.

If oral argument is just theatre then there should be no oral argument; the briefs should suffice. The simple reality is that oral argument does play a role in thrashing out not only the positions, but the sustainability and worth of the positions when examined closely and from different angles.