Dumb Re: Questions

Early in 2011, Supreme Court observers noted that Justice Clarence Thomas was about to reach the five-year anniversary of the last time he asked a question during oral arguments before the court.

No other justice has gone that long without raising a hand.

What does this mean? It means that Supreme Court observers are desperate people who need hobbies.

I was a kid who didn’t ask questions in class, in part because all the other kids were so gabby. I thought I was doing a public service by keeping mum. Somehow I got it in my head that we’d get to go to lunch before Mr. Sinclair’s room if we got done with algebra first. Maybe that’s what Justice Thomas is doing.

Oh, and I also didn’t want to get laughed at. I never bought the line about their being ‘no dumb questions,’ because I knew my head was full of them.

For some unexplainable reason, the odd notion of a consistently mum member of the black robed Supreme Court made me think of Edgar Allen Poe.

Once into a court Supremely strode a man some call unseemly
Whether he is that or something else I cannot say for sure.
As he sat among his brethren, criticism he’d been weatherin’
Harsh words, like balloons untetherin’, floated upwards from the floor.
“I’ve no questions,” Thomas muttered. “Like so many times before.”
Any questions? “Nevermore.”

“Surely some things make you wonder as you sit, be-robed, to ponder,”
said a counselor whose well-wrought argument had been a bore.
Thomas gazed up at the ceiling, noticed that the paint was peeling
Feeling an un-curious feeling. A feeling he had felt before.
And for years and years and years and years and years before and more.
Any questions? “Nevermore.”

All the others on the panel – all three women and each man’ll
have at least one query every session, say those who keep score.
Roberts. Kennedy. Scalia. Each of them, in turn, will be a
questioner. Some repeat. Scalia. Scalia. And, of course, Sotomayor.
Only Thomas remains silent as the Sphinx of ancient lore.
Listening, and nothing more.

In they come, their black gowns sweeping. One of them is, maybe, sleeping.
Justices, like angry birds, are poised to pounce on those before.
All their intellect is pooling with each new, successive ruling.
Reasoned judgments come unspooling out the giant courtroom door.
Only one is known for what we know he does not have in store –
Questions, Clarence? Nevermore!


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