May 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Clarence Thomas: “Tremendously bad” Supreme Court leak shatters public trust

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaking in October 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaking in October 2021 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday at an event in Dallas that the Supreme Court has been changed by the leak of a draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade earlier this month, calling it "tremendously bad," according to audio obtained by Reason Magazine.

Why it matters: Thomas, a conservative, said he believes the leak has damaged trust in the court and said that "we are in danger of destroying the institutions that are required for a free society."

  • The unprecedented leaked draft, first published by Politico, insinuated that the court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision that would make abortion immediately illegal in several states.

What they're saying: "You can't have a civil society, a free society, without a stable legal system. You can't have one without stability and things like property or interpretation and impartial judiciary," he added.

  • "And 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 that, 'Oh, that's impossible. No one would ever do that.'"
  • "There was such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, a belief in what we were doing, that that was verboten. It was beyond anyone's understanding, or at least anyone's imagination, that someone would do that. And look where we are, where now that trust or that belief is gone forever."
  • "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."
  • "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 they are destabilized, what we will have as a country. And I don't think that the prospects are good if we continue to lose them."

Thomas also criticized recent peaceful pro-abortion rights protests outside of justices' homes, saying he believes conservatives would have never done the same.

  • "You would never visit Supreme Court Justices' houses when things didn't go our way. We didn't throw temper tantrums. It is incumbent on us to always act appropriately and not to repay tit for tat."

The big picture: Chief Justice John Roberts, after confirming the authenticity of the draft document, called the leak "absolutely appalling" and that he hopes "one bad apple" doesn't change "people's perception" of the Supreme Court.

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