Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently compared the leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade to infidelity and said it was “tremendously bad.”
Justice Thomas, who is the most senior justice on the high court, also suggested during a conference with Black conservatives on Friday that it’s possibly another one of the justices — if not a liberal law clerk — had leaked the opinion, an unprecedented move.
“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 said, according to Politico.
“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.
Justice Thomas, who was appointed to the high court by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, also said the atmosphere at the high court is more political.
“I sat with 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,” he said. “Anybody who would, for example, have an attitude to leak documents, that is your general attitude, that is your future on the bench.”
Court watchers were aghast when news broke earlier this month that the high court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that gave women a right to an abortion.
Pro-choice protesters have shown up outside the houses of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has refused to condemn the leak and has expressed support for First Amendment rights.
It is the first time a full draft opinion has been leaked in the Supreme Court’s 233-year history.
In a draft opinion that was first obtained by Politico, Justice Alito said the abortion issue should return to the state legislatures.
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion,” he wrote. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”
“It’s time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” reads the opinion, which was dated in February.
An official ruling in the case is expected by the end of June.
Chief Justice Roberts said the draft opinion was authentic but noted it did not represent a final ruling. He has called for an investigation to uncover who leaked the document to the press.
The legal dispute at issue weighs a Mississippi ban on abortion at 15 weeks in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Mississippi officials argue that Roe should be overturned because it’s outdated.
The legal battle was brought by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s only abortion clinic, and a doctor who provides abortions. According to court papers, the clinic provides abortions up to 16 weeks of gestation.
They challenged the state’s Gestational Age Act, enacted in 2018. The law bans abortions after 15 weeks unless there is a medical emergency or severe abnormality within the fetus.