The silent Supreme Court judge

The New York Times examines the five year silence of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in cases that have argued before the court. While there are a number of possible reasons given for this silence, I want to know two things:

1.  Does this silence improve his standing in front of others (in the legal community, the general public) or does people dislike him because of this?

2. How does this silence affect the workings or camaraderie among the Supreme Court justices? Do they lose something in their court proceedings when Thomas is silent?