(UPDATED: This post has been updated with the transcript of the oral arguments, at the bottom of this post. h/t Shall Not Be Questioned blog.)

In a turn of events sure to shock those who follow the US Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas has broken with his 10-year-long record of declining to engage in oral argument, reports USA Today.

Only once in the last 10 years has Justice Thomas made even the slightest remark during oral arguments, and that was merely a one-sentence aside made in jest to Antonin Scalia some three years ago.  Justice Scalia, a close friend of Thomas’, passed away two weeks ago.

The case which prompted Thomas to substantively engage in oral argument, Voisine v. US, centers on the Second Amendment.  Thomas choosing to break his habitual silence on this Second Amendment case may have been in homage to his friend Scalia, who greatly enjoyed displaying his wit in oral arguments.

The recently deceased Scalia was instrumental on crafting pro-Second Amendment decisions by the Supreme Court in recent years, including the acknowledgement of a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in the cases of Heller and McDonald.

The instant case involves a Federal law imposing a life-time ban on the possession of firearms applied to individuals who have been convicted of a violation of a state misdemeanor domestic violence provision.  Normally, only a felony conviction results in a lifetime ban, but domestic violence crimes qualify for a lifetime ban even if they are only misdemeanors.  Two Maine men so convicted argue in this case that their lifetime bans violate their US Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment.

Thomas reportedly spoke 11 times and asked nine questions, in particular giving a hard time to Ilana Eisenstein, the assistant US Solicitor General defending the federal ban.

At one point he asked, “This is a misdemeanor violation. It suspends a constitutional right. Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?”

This she was unable to do.

Here’s the transcript of the oral argument:

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
“Law of Self Defense, 2nd Ed.” /Seminars / Instructors Course / Seminar Slides / Twitter /Facebook / Youtube