U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas poses during the court's official photo session in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 29, 2009
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By Melissa Chan
February 29, 2016

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas broke his signature silence on Monday when he asked questions on the bench for the first time in a decade.

Thomas’ inquiries were directed at a Justice Department lawyer in a case related to a federal ban on gun ownership for people convicted of domestic violence, the Associated Press reports. As the Supreme Court considers placing new limits on the federal law’s reach, Thomas asked the lawyer defending the government’s position whether the violation of any other law suspends a person’s constitutional rights, according to the AP.

Thomas marked his 10-year milestone of remaining mute on the bench last Monday, NBC News reported at the time. The last time he asked a question was Feb. 22, 2006, during arguments on a death-penalty case, the news site said.

The Justice addressed the reasons for why he did not often pose questions in oral arguments before the Supreme Court in 2000 during a televised question-and-answer session with high school students, according to the New York Times.

He told them his more vocal colleagues typically ask the questions, and that he learns better by listening. “There’s no reason to add to the volume,” he said. “For all those reasons, and a few others, I just think that it’s more in my nature to listen rather than to ask a bunch of questions. And they get asked anyway.” He added, “The only reason I could see for asking the questions is to let people know I’ve got something to ask. That’s not a legitimate reason in the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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