Clarence Thomas Is Very Worried That the SCOTUS Leak Will Damage the Court

He might want to look a little closer to home.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas takes his seat during a Federalist Society event in Florida in 2020.Octavio Jones/ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday that the high court’s reputation had been permanently damaged by the recent leak of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutional right to have an abortion.

 “What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Thomas said on Friday at a conference in Dallas for Black conservatives. “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 will have as a country, and I don’t think the prospects are good if we continue to lose them.”

The leak of the draft opinion is unprecedented in modern Supreme Court history. It is not publicly known who provided the opinion to Politico, which published it earlier this month. Some on the left have speculated that a conservative justice or clerk wanted to pressure fellow conservatives to maintain their support for overturning Roe. Those on the right have tended to argue that a liberal shared the opinion to create a backlash against the court.

Either way, Thomas argued on Friday that the leak has led justices to view each other with suspicion. “Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “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.”

The remarks came during a public conversation with his former clerk John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley. Among progressives, Yoo is infamous for writing many of the memos that provided a legal justification for torturing people captured as part of the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. 

Thomas’ lamentations about the state of American institutions are, at best, selective. Following the 2020 presidential election, his wife, Virginia Thomas, repeatedly pressured White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to attempt to overturn the election based on conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of widespread fraud. In a series of text messages to Meadows obtained by the Washington Post and CBS News, she accused Biden and the left of “attempting the greatest Heist of our History” 

“Do not concede,” she wrote in a message to Meadows sent just after the election. “It takes time for the army who is gathering for his back.” Following the January 6 storming of the Capitol, she expressed her disgust with former Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to block certification of Biden’s victory.

Before his wife’s text messages were published, Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election. He has also provided no indication that he will step aside from future cases tied to Trump’s effort to steal the election, despite widespread calls for him to do so. If he has any doubts about how that will impact the court’s reputation, he has kept them to himself.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate