According to Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court leak has eroded trust in the institution

According to Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court leak has eroded trust in the institution

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The leak of a draft opinion on abortion has turned the Supreme Court into a “place to look over your shoulder,” Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday night, and it may have irreparably destroyed trust in the institution.

“What happened in court was terribly bad,” Thomas said in a conversation with a former legal trainee at a conference of conservative and libertarian thinkers in Dallas. “I wonder how long we will have these institutions to the extent that we are undermining them. And then I wonder what we will have as a country when they are gone or destabilized.”

It was the second time in a week that Thomas had criticized the declining respect for “institutions” – he made similar remarks at a conference of judges and lawyers last week.

Thomas says respect for institutions is eroding

Thomas, 73, said the leak revealed the dish’s “fragile” nature.

“The institution that I belong to – if someone said that a line of opinion leaked out from anyone, they would say, ‘Oh, that’s impossible. No one would ever do that,'” Thomas said. “There’s such a belief in the rule of law, a belief in the court, a belief in what we’re doing, that that was forbidden.”

He continued, “And look where we are, where that trust or belief is gone forever. And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I am in, the institution changes fundamentally. You start looking over your shoulder. It’s like a kind of infidelity that you can explain but can’t undo.”

He made the remarks Friday night at a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Hoover Institution. Before an approving crowd he was sharp and accusatory; He appeared to blame legal clerks working at the court for leaking a draft opinion by Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. that would topple Roe v. calfand he seemed suspicious of some of his peers.

“Anyone who has an attitude about leaking documents, for example, that general attitude is your future at the bank,” Thomas said. “And you have to think about that. And we’ve never had that before. We actually trusted — we might have been a dysfunctional family, but we were family.”

Just as Alito had done the night before in a speech at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School in Virginia, Thomas skipped over the usual bonhomie judges express about their peers — that they strongly disagree, but respect and admire one another .

When asked by a questioner who wondered how a friendly respect for ideological differences could be encouraged in Congress and other institutions, Thomas replied:

“Well, I’m just worried about keeping it in court now.”

As the week before, he hailed a previous court — one headed by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and with Judge Stephen G. Breyer as a junior member — as a “fabulous court.” It ended with the appointment of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. after Rehnquist’s death in 2005, and now remains Thomas and Breyer, who will retire at the end of the term.

“This is not the court of this time,” said Thomas. “I sat with Ruth Ginsburg for almost 30 years and she was actually an easy-going colleague for me. You knew where she was and she was a nice person to deal with. You can say the same thing to Sandra Day O’Connor; David Souter, I can continue the list.”

“The court, which has existed for 11 combined years, was a fabulous court. It was one that you were excited to be a part of.”

Thomas spoke to a former law clerk, John Yoo, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Yoo did not question the judiciary about recent controversies involving Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, who was a staunch defender of President Donald Trump and whose texts with Trump’s chief of staff have come to light about legal plans to challenge Trump’s 2020 election loss.

Before these numerous texts were published by the Washington Post and CBS News, Thomas was the only member of the court to side with Trump’s motion, the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riots in the Capitol, documents of the white man house to withhold. Thomas did not explain his vote in the court’s brief order denying Trump’s emergency motion, and Congressional Democrats have cited his participation as evidence of the need for a strong code of ethics and recusal on the Supreme Court.

Thomas briefly recounted struggles with the left trying to keep him out of court “for having an abortion.” While he said at his confirmation hearing that he never considered Roe’s correctness, just months later, Thomas echoed an opinion that the precedent should be overturned.

Thomas said conservatives have never used the tough tactics of the left.

“They would never visit the homes of Supreme Court justices unless things went our way,” Thomas said. “We didn’t have tantrums. I think it is incumbent on us to always act appropriately and not retaliate.”

Asked if Conservatives live up to the “mantra” of civility in politics, he said: “You’ve never put down a Supreme Court nominee. The best they can point to is that Garland wasn’t listened to, but he wasn’t vandalized.”

Thomas was referring to Attorney General Merrick Garland, who as judge was President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia after his death in 2016. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), then Senate Majority Leader, declined to schedule a confirmation hearing.

“By the way, it was a rule that Joe Biden put in place that you don’t get a hearing in the last year of a government,” Thomas said. He failed to mention that just weeks before Election Day 2020, Republicans pushed through Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to replace Ginsburg.

Thomas did not speak directly about any matters in court, but he was asked about stare decisis, the doctrine which generally says that previous decisions of the court should be respected and seldom overturned. It is addressed at length in Alito’s draft opinion, which would overturn roe.

At the present court, Thomas is the least faithful to the doctrine. “When someone uses Stare Decision, it means they’re out of arguments,” he said. “They just wave the white flag.”

Elsewhere in the speech, he bemoaned those who lacked “courage.” He continued, “Like they know what’s right and they’re scared to death to do it. And then they come up with all these excuses not to do it.” It was not clear if he was referring to some of his Conservative colleagues whom he had criticized in previous statements for not reacting quickly enough to put things right , which he considered wrong in previous decisions of the court.

Among Yoo’s questions, Thomas offered a familiar list of grievances: the liberal Yale Law School, where he graduated; intolerance of conservative views on college campuses; and “elites”.

In a room full of black conservatives, Thomas spoke about being free to make his own decisions, which put him at odds with the political views of other African Americans.

“People assume I’ve had troubles when I’ve been around people of my race,” Thomas told Yoo. “It’s just the opposite. The only people I’ve had trouble with are white liberal elites who see themselves as anointed and us as deranged. . . . I have never had any problems with members of my race.”

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