Justice Clarence Thomas’s hearty laugh boomed across phone lines Wednesday during a sports antitrust case, marking a moment of rare levity in the virus era and serving instantly as an audible reminder of what once used to be.

Laughter has been infrequent on the phone lines, set up last year to accommodate remote oral arguments amid the coronavirus pandemic. Each justice seems keenly aware of the minutes allocated for questioning an advocate before self-policing their time, or before the chief justice calls on the next justice.

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