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Clarence Thomas says abortion draft decision leak has changed the Supreme Court


Clarence Thomas, Associate Supreme Court Justice speaks at Heritage Foundation in Washington DC on October 21, 2021.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Justice Clarence Thomas claims that the Supreme Court was changed earlier in the month by the revelation of a draft opinion. According to the opinion, the court could overturn Roe V. Wade’s legal right to abortion that was almost 50 years ago.

Thomas, a conservative, joined the court in 1991. He has always called for Roe to be overturned. Thomas described the leak as an unacceptable breach of trust.

It is a fundamental change for the institution when you lose trust in your institution, particularly in my institution. It’s like looking over your shoulder. You start to look over your shoulder.

According to the court, the draft doesn’t represent the final position for any court member. Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into this leak.

Thomas was nominated by President George H.W. Bush stated that it was “unimaginable” that even just a single line of the draft opinion would have been released ahead of Politico’s May 2 leak. That is far less than a complete draft of nearly 100 pages. Politico reported also that Thomas was not the only conservative justice. Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch voted along with Samuel Alito to change Roe.

Thomas stated that if anyone had previously said “one line from one opinion” would leak, their response would have been “Oh, no, that’s impossible.” That would be impossible.

Thomas declared, “Now that trust and that belief are gone forever,” at the Old Parkland Conference. This conference was described by Thomas as an opportunity to discuss “alternative proven approaches” in addressing the current challenges faced by Black Americans.

Thomas said, at one time: “I think what happened at court was tremendously bad…I wonder how much longer we will have these institutions at this rate of undermining it.”

Thomas touched on also the demonstrations of liberals in Maryland and Virginia against the release of the draft opinion. Thomas claimed that this is a common tactic among conservatives.

When things were not going according to plan, you wouldn’t ever visit Supreme Court justices’ houses. There were no temper tantrums. “I think it’s… incumbent upon us that we always act appropriately, and not return tit for tot,” he stated.

Also, there are likely to be protests throughout the nation and at the Supreme Court on Saturday.

Thomas spoke before an audience in conversation with John Yoo. John Yoo is now a Berkeley Law Professor, but Thomas worked as a clerk for Thomas during the 1990s.

There are four law clerks for each justice every year. The current law clerk group has been the subject of speculation and has been suggested as the source of draft opinions’ leakage. These law clerks are among a handful of groups that have access to draft opinions, along with some administrative staff and justices.

Thomas was also available to answer questions from the audience. One of these was a question about the friendships among conservative and liberal justices. Thomas mentioned a friendship that Thomas shared with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal, and later the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. “How can Congress foster the same kind of relationships within Congress as within the population?” He asked.

Thomas said, “Well, it’s just that I worry about the court right now,” Thomas added. Thomas continued to praise former colleagues. He stated, “This just is not the court for that era.”

Despite his comments, Thomas seemed in good spirits — laughing heartily at times. Yoo is well-known for his so-called torture memos that were used by the George W. Bush administration to justify the use of “enhanced Interrogation” techniques following the September 11 terrorist attacks. He also stated that he took pictures of Thomas’ notes during the conference.

You’re going leak them? Thomas laughed.

Yoo replied: “Well I know where I should go…Politico can publish whatever I tell them right now.”