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Thomas comes out quick with questions in new Supreme Courtroom in-person argument format

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas got here out quick to ask the primary questions of the brand new Supreme Courtroom time period Monday, signaling that he’ll proceed to actively take part in oral arguments though the court is returning to in-person hearings. 

“Counsel, you appear to complain about Tennessee pumping water from Mississippi, however you admit that Tennessee doesn’t enter throughout the border into Mississippi, is not that appropriate?” Thomas requested a lawyer from Mississippi after he completed his opening assertion in a water dispute. 

The query and its timing have been notable as a result of the court docket is adopting a brand new hybrid argument format. Earlier than the pandemic,  justices interrupted counsel with a barrage of rapid-fire questions in no specific order. Thomas made clear his distaste for that system and nearly by no means spoke. 

However when the court docket was compelled to work remotely final yr it started asking questions in descending order of seniority, a system Thomas participated in the identical as all his fellow justices. 

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Supreme Courtroom Affiliate Justice Clarence Thomas attends the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett to be the U.S. Supreme Courtroom Affiliate Justice on the South Garden of the White Home October 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Thomas requested the primary query of the 2021-2022 Supreme Courtroom time period. (Photograph by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Pictures)
(Photograph by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Pictures)


The brand new system begins with an prolonged interval of rapid-fire questioning adopted by a extra orderly alternative for particular person questioning by every justice on the finish. However Thomas did not look forward to the structured time and as an alternative jumped proper into the questioning in a manner he nearly by no means did earlier than the pandemic. 

The primary case of the Supreme Courtroom time period on Monday is a dispute over floor water between Tennessee and Mississippi. Mississippi alleges that Tennessee is actually stealing floor water by pumping an excessive amount of from a shared aquifer. 

Thomas peppered the Mississippi lawyer with a number of extra powerful questions after his first one. 

“As an example it was a lake and Tennessee was pumping water on its aspect of the lake. Could not you argue that technically it was drawing water from Mississippi,” below Mississippi’s logic, Thomas requested that state’s lawyer. “Could not Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri make the identical argument that everytime you pump you are inflicting comparable issues for them?”

Former Thomas clerk and Judicial Disaster Community President Carrie Severino stated that Thomas’ assertive nature on this first argument of the court docket’s 2021-2022 time period is reflective of the brand new 6-3 conservative majority. 


“It’s Justice Thomas’s second because the mental chief of the Courtroom and thus becoming to listen to him ask the primary query of the brand new time period,” Severino stated. 

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