After his radical draft opinion was leaked last week, Justice Samuel Alito apparently thought it’d be best to keep a low profile for a while. The conservative jurist was scheduled to appear at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ judicial conference, for example, but last week, he canceled.
Alito’s most closely aligned ideological ally, however, still has plenty to say. The Washington Post reported:
Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday that the judiciary is threatened if people are unwilling to “live with outcomes we don’t agree with” and that recent events at the Supreme Court might be “one symptom of that.” Thomas, speaking to judges and lawyers at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference, did not speak directly about the leak of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, a colossal breach of the court’s procedures.
The Post’s report added that as part of the same appearance, Thomas said he worried about declining respect for institutions and the rule of law. “It bodes ill for a free society,” the conservative added. The justice went on to say that it can’t be that institutions “give you only the outcome you want, or can be bullied” to do the same.
Right off the bat, Thomas’ concerns about declining respect for institutions is rooted in fact — the Supreme Court’s reputation, in particular, has suffered in recent years — but the conservative jurist seems willfully ignorant of the deliberate developments that created such conditions.
It was Senate Republicans who stole a Supreme Court seat in 2016, as part of a larger effort to politicize the judiciary.
Dana Milbank added in his latest column, “Worse, this McConnell-packed Roberts court has returned the favor by stacking the deck in favor of minority rule by Republicans. It has blessed partisan gerrymandering, giving Republicans representation in the House disproportionate to their share of the electorate. It has allowed elections to be decided by billionaires and corporations spending unlimited sums of untraceable money. It has kneecapped labor unions, co-signed voter-suppression schemes by Republican-run states and eviscerated the civil-rights-era Voting Rights Act, to disastrous effect for Black and brown voters.”
What’s more, the justices have contributed to the problem even while away from the bench. Alito has delivered political speeches in which he practically sounded like a candidate trying to shore up support from the GOP base. Justice Amy Coney Barrett has appeared alongside Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who rushed her onto the bench during a presidential election as part of a brazenly political display.
Thomas has been especially brazen. In fact, as we discussed last fall, the sitting justice appeared with McConnell at the Heritage Foundation, where Thomas’ “jurisprudence on unborn life” was heralded.
These were difficult circumstances to defend: A conservative political group hosted an event for a conservative Supreme Court justice, who was in attendance for the celebration of himself. Congress’ most powerful Republican official — a man who has personally spearheaded a years-long campaign to politicize the federal judiciary — not only delivered a keynote address, he also specifically praised the justice’s work on a controversial issue that the Supreme Court was poised to consider.
And to think that confidence in the court has waned.
But just as notable was Thomas’ lack of self-awareness. He specifically marveled — out loud and in public — at those unwilling to “live with outcomes” they disagree with. The justice chided those who expect institutions to give them only the outcomes they want.
Left unacknowledged was the extensive political work his wife, Ginni Thomas.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, her role as a right-wing activist was already controversial, given that she’s worked with political organizations that have a stake in decisions before the Supreme Court, but recent revelations have taken this dynamic to an unprecedented new level.
Ginni Thomas, for example, attended the pre-riot “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. Separate reports in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine added that she also played an organizing role in the pro-Trump gathering just south of the White House.
She also had extensive communications with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, with whom Thomas discussed strategies to overturn the election results, and pressured congressional Republicans to do more to overturn the election, including calling on lawmakers to go “out in the streets.” By some accounts, she even reached out to Jared Kushner about legal options surrounding the larger offensive.
This is not a situation in which the spouse of a sitting justice simply expressed political opinions. As The New York Times explained, the text messages between Thomas and Meadows “demonstrated that she was an active participant in shaping the legal effort to overturn the election.”
Her husband then heard arguments in election-related cases, siding with Team Trump on matters related to disclosing important information to Congress.
Sure, Justice Thomas, tell us again how awful it is to come across people who are unwilling to live with outcomes they don’t agree with.