Thomas has long been the silent justice, letting years go by between any query to a lawyer at the Supreme Court lectern while his eight colleagues engaged in rapid-fire questions.
Monday’s historic session had the feel of a congressional hearing. In this situation, it was Chief Justice John Roberts calling on members individually. It seemed the ideal and inviting format for the usually quiet 71-year-old justice.
The digital travel company sued and won when a lower court held that the name “Booking” combined with “.com” was protectable.
“Ms. Ross, the couple of questions,” Thomas began. “Could booking acquire an 800 number that’s a vanity number? 1-800-booking, for example, that is similar to 1-800-plumbing, which is a registered mark,” Thomas asked Erica Ross, assistant to the Solicitor General. He later followed up with questions to Booking.com attorney Lisa Blatt.
Thomas has given many explanations for his singular silence through the years, including that he believes the justices should give the lawyers at the lectern more time to present their cases. He earlier referred to his youth in Pin Point, Georgia, where he developed a dialect he said was mocked; Thomas has said that gave him the habit of listening more than speaking.
In March 2019, he made headlines when he asked a question involving race during a case concerning a Mississippi prosecutor’s repeated elimination of blacks from a jury pool.