“When you lose that trust, especially in the institution I’m in, it fundamentally changes the institution. You start looking over your shoulder,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of like infidelity that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.”
Thomas said that before the publication of the draft notice – made public by POLITICO last week – he considered this type of disclosure unthinkable.
“If someone said that one line of an opinion would be leaked by anyone…you’d say, ‘That’s impossible. Nobody would ever do that,” the judge said. “It was verboten. It was beyond anyone’s comprehension or at least anyone’s imagination.
Speaking at the Old Parkland conference, Thomas did not criticize any of his colleagues by name, but he indicated that the atmosphere on the pitch is different now than it was a few years ago.
“It’s not the court of that era,” said Thomas, who was confirmed in 1991. “I sat with Ruth Ginsburg for almost 30 years and she was actually a colleague who was easy to relate to deal…. We may have been a dysfunctional family, but we were a family.
At times, Thomas seemed to suggest that a fellow judge or clerk might be responsible for the disclosure.
“Anyone who would have, for example, an attitude to release documents, that’s your general attitude, that’s your future on the bench,” he said.
The publication of the notice led to protests at the Supreme Court and at the homes of several conservative justices, prompting the erection of an eight-foot high fence outside the court and increased security around the justices. themselves. Thomas lamented these protests and argued that conservatives do not engage in such tactics.
“You would never visit a Supreme Court justice[s’] homes when things weren’t going our way,” Thomas said. “We didn’t throw tantrums. … It is our responsibility to always act appropriately and not to give up tit for tat.”
Thomas did not comment on the substance of the 67-page draft opinion authored by fellow conservative Judge Samuel Alito, but at one point Thomas adopted one of the arguments it contained on stare decisis: the principle that respect for precedent justifies the maintenance of an earlier tribunal. opinions even if they are wrong. Alito’s opinion argues that stare decisis should not be a barrier to overturning the 49-year-old precedent guaranteeing a federal constitutional right to abortion.
“When someone uses stare decisis, it means they have no more arguments,” Thomas said.
Thomas also ventured into the discussion of certain subjects on which sitting judges rarely speak publicly. He defended the Senate’s refusal to consider Judge Merrick Garland when President Barack Obama nominated him in 2016 to fill the post left vacant by the death of Judge Antonin Scalia. The Senate was simply following a policy formulated by the senator at the time. Joe Biden, when he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, of not confirming a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of a president’s term, Thomas claimed.
The professor who interviewed Thomas at the event, John Yoo of Berkeley Law School, did not ask Thomas about a series of criticisms he received for participating in matters related to the 2020 election and to the congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6 Capitol storming. despite the fact that his wife, Virginia Thomas, was in contact with the White House chief of staff on January 6 and urged President Donald Trump to continue to fight the election results showing him defeated.
Yoo first referred to the project of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as “the so-called Dobbs Opinion Project”. However, the day after POLITICO released the document, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement acknowledging its authenticity and announcing an investigation into the disclosure.
Yoo repeatedly joked about disclosure during their joint appearance on Friday night, saying at one point that he might release notes Thomas took from other conference sessions.
“Well, I know where to go. POLITICO will post whatever I give them now,” Yoo said, making Thomas laugh.
Myah Ward contributed to this report.