'I wonder how long we're going to have these institutions': Justice Thomas warns that leak of abortion draft judgment could herald the END of the Supreme Court as he suggests leak came from clerk and takes dig at recent appointees
- Justice Clarence Thomas told conference for black conservatives that the leak of the Roe v Wade draft opinion was 'tremendously bad'
- The conservative judge said that despite being at odds politically with the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg: 'She was actually an easy colleague to deal with'
- Thomas also told the audience that conservatives wouldn't show up to protest at justice's homes
- Thomas went on to say that he always felt that leaking of opinions was 'verboten'
- Protests are expected across the country on Saturday, including a rally in DC
Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday compared the leak of fellow Justice's Samuel Alito's draft opinion, which would overturn abortion protections under Roe v Wade, to 'infidelity.'
Thomas, 73, said at a conference that the leak would weaken the public's trust in the Supreme Court as an institution, calling the unauthorized disclosure of deliberations 'tremendously bad.'
In his remarks, the conservative justice, who has long called for overturning Roe, hinted that a liberal clerk may have leaked Alito's draft opinion, and lamented that partisan rancor has grown more entrenched on the high court.
Thomas pondered: '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.'
He continued: '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,' reports Politico.
Thomas during his question and answer session at the Old Parkland Conference with John Yoo of Berkeley Law School
During his appearance, Thomas said: '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'
Security fencing is in place outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC on Saturday morning ahead of expected pro-abortion rallies later in the day
Thomas, a nominee of President George H.W. Bush, said it was beyond 'anyone's imagination' before the May 2 leak of the opinion that even a line of a draft opinion would be released in advance, much less an entire draft that runs nearly 100 pages.
Thomas was speaking at the Old Parkland Conference, a meeting of black conservatives, in Dallas where he was Friday's keynote speaker.
Following his speech, Thomas sat for a questions and answers session with John Yoo of Berkeley Law School.
He also hinted that the atmosphere on the court had changed for the worse since he was confirmed in 1991, and suggested that a liberal justice's clerk could be behind the leak.
Thomas said: 'This is not the court of that era. I sat with (famously liberal justice) Ruth Ginsburg for almost 30 years and she was actually an easy colleague to deal with... We may have been a dysfunctional family, but we were a family.'
'Anybody who would, for example, have an attitude to leak documents, that is your general attitude, that is your future on the bench.'
The Supreme Court Justices are pictured, with the court currently comprised of six conservatives and three liberals
Pro-abortion advocates, right, try to block anti-abortion signage during a rally at the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan earlier this month
More than 380 protests were set Saturday from Maine to Hawaii, with the largest gatherings expected in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York. Pictured: Demonstrators in Boston on May 7
Thomas also touched in passing on the protests by liberals at conservative justices' homes in Maryland and Virginia that followed the draft opinion's release. Thomas argued that conservatives have never acted that way.
'You would never visit Supreme Court justices' houses when things didn´t go our way. We didn´t throw temper tantrums. I think it is ... incumbent on us to always act appropriately and not to repay tit for tat,' he said.
Protests at the Supreme Court and around the nation are also expected Saturday.
More than 380 events were set from Maine to Hawaii, with the largest gatherings expected in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and other big cities, organizers said.
In the nation's capital, activists planned to gather at the Washington Monument before marching to the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by a security fence.
Tens of thousands of people were expected at the 'Bans off our Bodies' events, providing an outlet for anger and frustration for abortion rights activists after a leaked draft Supreme Court ruling suggested Roe v. Wade will be overturned.
'If it's a fight they want, it's a fight they'll get,' Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women's March, told the Associated Press.
Pro-abortion rights advocates march in the street during a protest outside the house of Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito in Alexandria, VA on May 9
Protestors chanted 'Keep abortion safe and legal!' and 'Pro-life is a lie! You don't care if people die!' outside of Supreme Court Justice John Robert's home in Chevy Chase, Maryland
Despite his comments on Friday, Thomas seemed in good spirits, laughing heartily at times.
Yoo, who is known for writing the so-called 'torture memos' that the George W. Bush administration used to justify using 'enhanced interrogation' techniques after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, said at one point that he had taken pictures of notes Thomas had taken during the conference.
'You're going to leak them?' Thomas asked, laughing.
Yoo responded: 'Well, I know where to go...Politico will publish anything I give them now.'
Politico first reported on the leak of Alito's draft opinion, an opinion that was the biggest indication yet that the conservative leaning court could overturn a constitutional right to abortion that has been in place since an earlier 1973 ruling.
The court has said the draft does not represent the final position of any of the court's members, and Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the leak.
In addition to Thomas, reportedly supporting the move to overturn Roe are conservative justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, as well as the draft opinion's author, Samuel Alito.
The draft opinion is not final, and the court is expected to hand down its decision sometime in June or July. If Roe v Wade were overturned, states would then
The leak went on to prompt nationwide protests, including angry crowds outside of the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices.
The George H.W. Bush appointee said that conservatives 'would never visit Supreme Court justice[s'] houses when things didn't go our way' and that they don't 'throw temper tantrums.
Thomas put into context the gravity of the leak saying: 'If someone said that one line of one opinion would be leaked by anyone, and you would say that, 'Oh, that's impossible. No one would ever do that.' He described the idea of a leak as 'verboten.'
Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the leak was authentic but said that it was not the court's final position on the issue of Mississippi's ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Police watch as anti-abortion and pro-abortion demonstrators protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC
Thomas said that conservatives would never 'throw temper tantrums' if they didn't like a Supreme Court ruling
Members of Handmaids Army DC walk silently from the Supreme Court to the Capitol during a protest against the Court's leaked preliminary decision to overturn Roe v. Wade
Speaking at the conference, Thomas did not mention any of his colleagues by name when speaking about the leak.
Thomas' comments come a day after Justice Samuel Alito was asked about the leak during an appearance at George Mason University.
Alito dodged the question, answering by the saying that it was business as usual within the court, reports The Washington Post.
Famously, it was at a similar conference of black conservatives in 1980 when Thomas regaled the audience with one of his most memorable anecdotes, regarding his sister who he said was on welfare.
Thomas, who was then an aide to Republican Senator John Danforth, said of his sister: 'She gets mad when the mailman is late with her welfare check. That is how dependent she is. What's worse is that now her kids feel entitled to the check too. They have no motivation for doing better or getting out of that situation,' reported The Atlantic.
Later reporting in 1991 cast doubt on the tale, finding that Thomas' sister had been on government assistance for a few years while caring for an ailing family member, but that she had returned to work as a hospital cook.
Her children, according to the Chicago Tribune, were all either working, in school, or in the military.
Justice Clarence Thomas: A brief history
Justice Clarence Thomas was born on the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia in 1948, where was he raised in part by his maternal grandparents
Thomas got his law degree from Yale. After graduation, he said that law firms didn't take him seriously because they believed his degree was down to affirmative action.
In 1974, Thomas went to work for the Attorney General of Missouri's office under John Danforth.
Thomas was appointed for a role in the Department of Education by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush nominated Thomas for the court of appeals. He was confirmed in 1990.
Thomas was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in July 1991 following the retirement of Justice Thurgood Marshall
Despite sexual assault allegations made against him, Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1991.
Since then, Thomas has gained a reputation as one of if not the most conservative member of the court.
Thomas has been married to his second-wife Virginia Lamp since 1987.
Lamp, a conservative activist, attracted controversy in 2022 when it was widely reported that she interacted with President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, encouraging him to push voter fraud conspiracy theories.