Justice Clarence Thomas says the Supreme Court was changed by the shocking leak of a draft opinion earlier this month
WASHINGTON — Justice Clarence Thomas says the Supreme Court was shaken by the shocking leak of a draft opinion earlier this month. The opinion suggests that the court is about to overturn the right to abortion recognized nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade.
Conservative Thomas, who joined the court in 1991 and has long sought the annulment of Roe v. Wade, described the leak as an unthinkable breach of trust.
“When you lose that trust, especially in the institution I’m in, it fundamentally changes the institution. You start looking over your shoulder. It’s like an infidelity that you can explain, but you can’t undo it,” he said as he spoke at a Friday night conference in Dallas.
The court said the draft did not represent the final position of any of the court’s members, and court president John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak.
Thomas said that previously, “if someone said a line of an opinion” would leak, the response would have been, “Oh, that’s impossible. Nobody would ever do that.”
“Now that trust or that belief is gone forever,” Thomas told the Old Parkland Conference, which he describes as a conference “to discuss proven alternative approaches to addressing the challenges facing black Americans today.”
Thomas also said at one point, “I think what happened in court is awfully bad… I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re harming them.”
Thomas also addressed the protests by liberals in the homes of conservative judges in Maryland and Virginia that followed the release of the draft opinion. Thomas argued that conservatives never acted this way.
“You would never visit the homes of Supreme Court justices when things didn’t go our way. We didn’t throw tantrums. I think it’s… incumbent on us to always act properly and not reciprocate tit-for-tat.” he said.
Protests in the Supreme Court and across the country are also expected on Saturday.
Thomas was speaking before an audience as part of a conversation with John Yoo, who is now a professor of law at Berkeley but worked for Thomas for a year in the early 1990s as a legal assistant.
Each judge usually has four lawyers per year and the current group of lawyers has been the focus of speculation as a possible source of leaking the draft opinion. They are one of the few groups, along with ministers and some administrative officials, who have access to the drafting of 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 justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late conservative justice Antonin. Scalia. “How can we foster that same kind of relationship in Congress and the general population?” the man asked.
“Well, I’m just worried about keeping him in court now,” Thomas replied. He went on to speak in glowing terms about former colleagues. “This is not the court of that time,” he said.
Despite his comments, Thomas seemed in good spirits – chuckling heartily at times. Yoo, who is known for writing the so-called “torture memos” that the George W. Bush administration used to justify the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said at one point that he had taken pictures of notes Thomas had taken during the conference.
“Are you going to leak them?” Thomas asked, laughing.
Yoo replied, “Well, I know where to go… Politico will publish whatever I give them now.”