WASHINGTON — Judge Clarence Thomas says the Supreme Court was changed by the shocking leak of a draft opinion earlier this month. The opinion suggests that the court is ready to overturn the right to abortion recognized nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade.
Conservative Thomas, who came to court in 1991 and has long called for the destruction of Roe v. Wade, described the leak as an unthinkable breach of trust.
“If you lose that trust, especially in the institution where I work, it fundamentally changes the institution. You start looking over your shoulder. It’s kind of infidelity that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it,” he said during a Friday night conference address in Dallas.
The court has said the draft does not represent the final position of any of the members of the court, and Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the leak.
Thomas, a candidate for President George HW Bush, said it was “beyond anyone’s imagination” before the opinion leaked to Politico on May 2 that even a line of draft opinion would be released in advance, let alone a full draft. that’s nearly 100 pages. Politico also reported that in addition to Thomas, Conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Comey Barrett, along with draft opinion author Samuel Alito, had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and a 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. rejecting that upheld Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion.
Thomas previously said that “if someone said one line of one opinion” would have leaked out, the response would have been, “Oh, that’s impossible. No one would ever do that.”
“Now that trust or belief is gone forever,” Thomas said at the Old Parkland conference, describing itself as a conference “to discuss alternative, proven approaches to addressing the challenges black Americans face today. “
Thomas also said at one point, “I think what happened in court is really bad…I wonder how long we’ll have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”
Thomas also addressed protests by liberals in the homes of conservative judges in Maryland and Virginia that followed the publication of the draft opinion. Thomas argued that conservatives have never acted that way.
“You would never visit the homes of Supreme Court justices if things weren’t going well. We had no tantrums. I think it’s our duty to always act appropriately and not refund anything,” he said.
Protests were planned for Saturday at the Supreme Court and across the country.
Neither Thomas nor anyone in attendance at the Dallas session mentioned the January 6 uprising or the actions of Thomas’ wife, Virginia, in her fight to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Clarence Thomas spoke to an audience as part of a conversation with John Yoo, who is now a law professor at Berkeley but spent a year working for Thomas as a lawyer in the early 1990s.
Each judiciary generally has four clerks each year and the current group of clerks is the subject of speculation as a possible source of the draft opinion leak. They are one of the few groups, along with the judges and some administrative staff, who have access to draft opinions.
Thomas also answered a few questions from the audience, including one from a man who asked about friendships between liberal and conservative judges on the court, such as a well-known friendship between the late liberal judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late conservative judge Antonin Scalia. “How can we foster that same kind of relationship within Congress and within the general population?” the man asked.
“Well, I’m just worried about taking it to court now,” Thomas replied. He then spoke in glowing terms about former colleagues. “This is not the court of the time,” he said.
Despite his remarks, Thomas seemed in a good mood – sometimes laughing heartily. Yoo, who is known for writing the so-called “torture memos” that the George W. Bush administration used to justify using “enhanced interrogation techniques” after the September 11 terror attacks, said at one point that he had taken photos of notes Thomas had taken during the conference.
“Are you going to leak them?” Thomas asked with a laugh.
Yoo replied, “Well, I know where to go… Politico will publish whatever I give them now.”
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