The New York Times reported last week (12 February 2011) that today marks the five year anniversary since US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last spoke in court during oral argument. Amusingly the reporter, Adam Liptak, speculated about how Justice Thomas would conduct himself today:
"If he is true to form, Justice Thomas will spend the arguments as he always does: leaning back in his chair, staring at the ceiling, rubbing his eyes, whispering to Justice Stephen G Breyer, consulting papers and looking a little irritated and a little bored. He will ask no questions."
Certainly that description of judicial demeanour will be familiar to most advocates and those who sit behind them. Sadly, most judges follow up with an explosion of questions, rather than listening in silence to the advocate bashing on. However, next time you are subjected to an assault of questions from the Bench, have some sympathy for your colleagues across the pond and bear this in mind.
It would seem that the other Supreme Court Justices more than make up for their silent colleague. According to the article, in the 20 years preceding 2008, the justices asked on average 133 questions per hour of argument, an increase of 100 from 15 years before. More than two questions a minute. That would keep any advocate on their toes and off their stride...