Justice Clarence Thomas's 5-year silence: By the numbers - The Week The Supreme Court's return from its midwinter break next week will mark a legal milestone: It will have been five years since Justice Clarence Thomas last spoke during a court argument, a record unequalled by any other justice in recent decades. His "epic silence on the bench is just one part of his enigmatic and contradictory persona 40 Number of years since any other justice has gone an entire term, let alone five, without speaking, according to Timothy R. Johnson, a University of Minnesota political science professor 133 Average number of questions per hourlong argument that Supreme Court justices collectively asked from 1988 to 2008. That's more than two questions per minute. "Thomas isn't wrong to suggest that the last thing the bench needs is another chatterbox," says Dahlia Lithwick at Slate. 100 Average number of questions per hourlong argument asked by Supreme Court justices from 1972 to 1987. "The post-Scalia court, from 1986 onward, has become a much more talkative bench," says Professor Johnson.