Extra Scrutiny: The "Silence" of Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas has always been a controversial figure on the Supreme Court. First it was his contentious confirmation hearings, during which he was accused of persistent sexual harassment, and the narrow vote by the Senate in which he was nearly rejected. Then it was his strict, conservative approach to the constitution as a member of the Court, with Thomas sometimes writing opinions so extreme none of his colleagues, not even fellow conservatives such as Antonin Scalia or William Rehnquist, were willing to join.

But over the last decade, something else about Justice Thomas has drawn criticism: his silence on the bench. As his colleagues routinely pepper attorneys with pointed, even combative questions during oral argument, Justice Thomas instead sits quietly, content not to interrupt or interject.

But not always. In this brief special episode of Heightened Scrutiny, you'll hear some of the rare moments when Justice Thomas has spoken up, sometimes with profound impact.

Sources referenced:

"In His Own Words: Justice Clarence Thomas," New York Times, Dec. 14, 2000.

Adam Liptak, "Justice Clarence Thomas Breaks His Silence in Court," New York Times, Jan. 14, 2013.

Jeffrey Toobin, "Clarence Thomas's Disgraceful Silence," New Yorker, Feb. 21, 2014.