Justice Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court had been changed by the shocking leak of a draft opinion earlier this month.
The opinion suggests the court is set to strike down the abortion rights recognized nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade.
Conservative Thomas, who joined the court in 1991 and has long called for 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 a kind of infidelity that you can explain, but you can’t undo it,” he said at a Friday night conference in Dallas.
The court said the draft did not represent the final position of any of the court members, and Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak.
Thomas, a candidate for President George H.W. Bush, said it was beyond “anyone’s imagination” before the May 2 notice leaked to Politico that even a line from a draft notice would be published in advance, let alone an entire project that runs almost 100 pages. Politico also reported that in addition to Thomas, conservative justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted with draft opinion author Samuel Alito to overturn Roe v Wade and a 1992 decision, Planned. Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe’s conclusion of a constitutional right to abortion.
Thomas said that previously, “if someone said one line of an opinion” would be leaked, the response would have been, “Oh, that’s impossible.” Nobody would ever do that.
“Now that trust or that belief is gone forever,” Thomas said at the Old Parkland conference, which describes itself as a conference “to discuss proven alternative approaches to addressing the challenges facing black Americans today.” today”.
Thomas also said at one point, “I think what happened in court is extremely bad…I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”
Thomas also mentioned in passing the protests by liberals at the homes of conservative judges in Maryland and Virginia that followed the release of the draft notice. Thomas argued that the Conservatives have never acted this way.
“You would never visit the homes of Supreme Court justices when things were not going our way. We didn’t have any tantrums. I think it’s incumbent on us to always act appropriately and not refund tit for tat,” he said.
Demonstrations at the Supreme Court and across the country are also expected on Saturday.
Thomas was speaking to an audience in a conversation with John Yoo, who is now a law professor at Berkeley but worked for Thomas for a year in the early 1990s as a lawyer.
Each judge typically has four clerks each year, and the current group of clerks has been the subject of speculation as a possible source of the leaked draft notice. They are one of the few groups, along with judges and some administrative staff, to have access to draft opinions.
Thomas also took a few questions from the audience, including one from a man who asked about friendships between liberal and conservative justices on the court, such as a well-known friendship between the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late conservative judge Antonin. Scalie. “How can we foster that same type of relationship within Congress and within the general public?” asked the man.
“Well, I’m just worried about keeping him on the pitch now,” Thomas replied. He then spoke glowingly of former colleagues. “It’s not the court of this era,” he said.
Despite her comments, Thomas seemed in good spirits – occasionally laughing heartily. 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 took pictures of notes. Thomas had taken during the conference.
“Are you going to divulge them?” asked Thomas laughing.
Yoo replied, “Well, I know where to go… Politico will post whatever I give them now.”