Thomas: Justices Don't Trust Each Other Anymore

Breakdown of faith could threaten the court, he says, while suggesting he preferred past colleagues
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2022 10:35 AM CDT
Thomas: Leak Ruined Trust Among Justices
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, shown speaking last September, decried the breakdown of trust on the court.   (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, File)

(Newser) – In his first public comments after the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion rights, Justice Clarence Thomas used words like "unfortunate" and talked around the issue. Thomas addressed the issues more directly in a speech Friday night in Dallas, the New York Times reports. "What happened at the court is tremendously bad," Thomas told a conference sponsored by conservative and libertarian organizations, including American Enterprise Institute. He discussed a breakdown in trust—among the justices as well as among Americans—that he suggested eventually could be fatal to the court.

The leak, of Justice Samuel Alito's argument for overturning Roe v. Wade, was such a breach that Thomas described it as "like kind of an infidelity." Now, trust is gone for good, he said. "And 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." Thomas said that's worrisome for the future, and not just for the Supreme Court. "I wonder how long we're going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them," he said. "And then I wonder when they're gone or destabilized, what we're going to have as a country."

But Thomas has his own complaints about the court—thinly veiled and expressed mostly by praising past justices. Under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the immediate predecessor of Chief Justice John Roberts, he said, the nation had a "fabulous court" for 11 years, per the Washington Post. He named past Justices Ruth Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor, and David Souter as among those who were pleasant to work with. "I can go on down the list," he said. It was a court "you looked forward to being a part of," Thomas said. No more, evidently. "This is not the court of that era," he said. (Read more Clarence Thomas stories.)

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