Morning Sun

Thomas: Leak eroded Supreme Court trust

- By Greg Stohr

Justice Clarence Thomas said the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision has done deep damage to the institutio­n, underminin­g trust among its members and causing people to “look over your shoulder.”

Speaking at a conference in Dallas on Friday, Thomas said the disclosure has exposed the “fragile” nature of the court, the Washington Post and other news organizati­ons reported.

“When you lose that trust, especially in the institutio­n that I’m in, it changes the institutio­n fundamenta­lly,” Thomas said in an excerpt posted by CNN. “You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.”

The draft opinion would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which establishe­d a constituti­onal right to abortion and legalized it nationwide. Politico published the draft decision this month and said five of the nine justices, including Thomas, had preliminar­ily voted with the majority.

A decision overturnin­g Roe would likely cause abortion to be outlawed in more than two dozen states, including 13 with so-called trigger laws that would automatica­lly take effect. Other states have preexistin­g abortion bans, some dating back more than a century.

The leaked opinion has sparked protests at the homes of justices, a tactic Thomas said conservati­ves never employed.

“You would never visit Supreme Court justices’ houses when things didn’t go our way,” Thomas said. “We didn’t throw temper tantrums. I think it is incumbent on us to always act appropriat­ely and not repay tit for tat.”

Thomas, whose 1991 confirmati­on hearing included a bitter fight over accusation­s that he had sexually harassed a subordinat­e, said conservati­ves “never trashed a Supreme Court nominee.” He said Merrick Garland, whose 2016 nomination by President Barack Obama was blocked by Senate Republican­s, “did not get a hearing, but he was not trashed.”

Thomas has been at the center of controvers­y this year after the revelation that his wife, conservati­ve activist Virginia Thomas, repeatedly pushed former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff to do more to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden.

Critics have said that, at a minimum, the justice should have recused himself from cases involving the 2020 election, including a decision that let some Trump papers be turned over to a congressio­nal panel investigat­ing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Thomas was the lone dissenter from that order, giving no explanatio­n.

Thomas made his remarks at a conference sponsored by three conservati­ve and libertaria­n groups: the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Hoover Institutio­n. He spoke in a conversati­on with John Yoo, a University of California, Berkeley, law professor who clerked for Thomas in the 1994-95 Supreme Court.

 ?? AMANDA ANDRADE-RHOADES — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Abortion-rights protesters stand in front of U.S. Capitol Police outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday.
AMANDA ANDRADE-RHOADES — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Abortion-rights protesters stand in front of U.S. Capitol Police outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday.
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