Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court’s most avowed opponent of the right to an abortion, complained at length at an event on Friday about the recent leak of a draft opinion indicating he and four other conservative justices will soon overturn Roe v. Wade. Thomas said that the leak — which has been followed by numerous additional leaks by conservatives close to the Court — was “tremendously bad” and “kind of like an infidelity” that made the Court a place “where you have to look over your shoulder.”
Thomas, who is about to turn 74 and will soon be both the Court’s oldest and longest-serving justice, made the comments at a conference in Dallas, Texas, organized by the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the Manhattan Institute.
“I do think that what happened at the Court is tremendously bad,” Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them and then I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized what we will have as a country, and I don’t think the prospects are good if we continue to lose them.”
Given the possibility that all of the recent leaks have come from conservatives, it is quite possible that Thomas was trying to tamp down activism by ideological allies. The Washington Post noted that Thomas’s comments seemed to indicate that he believed the draft opinion has been leaked by law clerks at the Court: “Anybody who would, for example, have an attitude to leak documents, that general attitude is your future on the bench,” he said. “And you need to be concerned about that.”
Thomas also criticized the left and demonstrations targeting the justices, insisting that conservatives “would never visit Supreme Court justices’ houses when things didn’t go our way. We didn’t throw temper tantrums. I think it is incumbent on us to always act appropriately and not repay tit for tat.” Thomas apparently made no mention of the questions about the ethics and legality of his not recusing himself from Capitol-riot cases in light of the fact that his wife, right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, sent unhinged texts to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about how Trump could remain president after losing the 2020 presidential election, then attended the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally herself.
Thomas, who was credibly accused of sexual harassment by former colleague Anita Hill during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991, also said the left tried to derail his own nomination over abortion.
When asked if conservatives were embodying the civility he preached, Thomas claimed that “they’ve never trashed a Supreme Court nominee. The most they can point to is [Merrick] Garland did not get a hearing, but he was not trashed.” Thomas made no mention of the lurid claims GOP senators falsely made during incoming Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s recent confirmation hearings, and tried to blame Joe Biden for Mitch McConnell’s decision to stonewall Garland’s Supreme Court nomination (never giving senators a chance to “trash” him) in 2016.
Thomas also lamented how the Court, in its current makeup, was no longer as respectable and collegial as it once was. “Look where we are, where now that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity, that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.”
Indeed, there are a lot of things Justice Thomas would like to undo.
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