Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday that the leak of a draft opinion that could lead to overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion has severely damaged the court.
“I do think that what happened at the court is tremendously bad… I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them,” Thomas said at the Old Parkland Conference, according to Fox News.
He repeated the concern and elaborated further in remarks quoted by The Washington Post.
“I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them. And then I wonder — when they’re gone or destabilized — what we’re going to have as a country,” he said, according to The Post.
Thomas has spoken out previously about the pressures faced by the court to rule in ways liberals want.
Last week, Thomas said Americans are “becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like,” according to the Daily Mail.
“It bodes ill for a free society,” he said, according to The Washington Post.
“We can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want. The events from earlier this week are a symptom of that,” he said then.
Will the court pull back from the opinions expressed in the leaked draft?
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Thomas said Friday that, until the leak took place, it was unimaginable that such a thing would happen.
“The institution that I’m a part of — if someone said that one line of one opinion would be leaked by anyone, you would say, ‘Oh, that’s impossible. No one would ever do that,’” Thomas said, “There’s such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, belief in what we’re doing, that that was verboten.”
“And look where we are, where now that trust or that belief is gone forever. 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. It’s like kind of an infidelity, that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it,” he said at the conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Hoover Institution.
“Anybody who would, for example, have an attitude to leak documents, that general attitude is your future on the bench,” Thomas said. “And you need to be concerned about that. And we never had that before. We actually trusted — we might have been a dysfunctional family, but we were a family.”
Thomas said the principle of stare decisis — which means that precedents are generally accepted — is a guideline, not a commandment.
“When someone uses stare decisis, that means they’re out of arguments,” he said. “They’re just waving the white flag.”
He later spoke about those who lack of courage, without being more specific.
“Like they know what is right, and they’re scared to death of doing it. And then they come up with all these excuses for not doing it.”
During his remarks, he said that as a black conservative, he has had issues with one particular group.
“People assume that I’ve had difficulties when I’ve been around members of my race,” Thomas said. “It’s just the opposite. The only people with whom I’ve had difficulties are white, liberal elites who consider themselves the anointed and us the benighted. . . . I have never had issues with members of my race.”