Suits & Sentences will just come right out and say it: Justice Sonia Sotomayor has already asked more oral-argument questions in a month than Justice Clarence Thomas has asked in his entire 18-year Supreme Court career.
That doesn't make her a better judge, of course. But still...
It's actually very hard to figure out how many questions Justice Thomas has asked during his career. In large part, that's because until the last few years, Supreme Court transcripts did not identify the name of the justice asking the question. Now that they do, they are worth a look.
Justice Sotomayor showed her active, engaged approach toward oral argument Monday, as she pressed lawyers for both sides in the cases involving life imprisonment for juvenile offenders. In the case Sullivan v. Florida, Sotomayor asked 10 questions, pretty evenly divided between sides. She knows the law, wants the facts and brooks no nonsense.
Knows the law: "The court there applied 39(A) and said, yeah, it's a change in law, but it hasn't been made retroactive," she said Monday.
Wants the facts: "Could you go back through the statistics for me?" she asked.
No nonsense: "No, that's an unfair characterization," she told one attorney Monday.
No, seriously; she's no-nonsense: "You're missing the point," she told an attorney Monday.
The court's newest justice was even more engaged in the patent law case argued Monday, Bilski v. Kappos. The transcript shows Sotomayor spoke up -- making a statement or asking an question -- at least two dozen separate times.
As for Justice Thomas, Suits & Sentences will here quote the Adobe Reader search box:
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