Justice Clarence Thomas shared his thoughts on the recent leak of a draft opinion being worked on by the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the event has changed the court and is an “unthinkable breach of trust.”
The leaked opinion indicates that the court is poised to overturn the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which would return the question of abortion regulation and prohibition to the states. Thomas has been a critic of Roe since being appointed to the court in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush.
Thomas’ remarks came on Friday at the Old Parkland Conference in Dallas, which is described as a forum for discussing “alternative proven approaches” to the problems faced by Black Americans.
Thomas said there that the loss of trust inside the court “changes the institution fundamentally.” He said that before the leak earlier this month, it had been “beyond anyone’s imagination” that a single word of a draft opinion could be released secretly before the court issued a final ruling in a case.
The report of the leak first made by Politico indicated that Thomas was joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kvanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Samuel Alito in voting for the reversal of Roe. Justice Alito was the author of the leaked draft opinion.
Thomas said that it would have been considered impossible for even “one line of one opinion” to leak out before a final ruling until this month. He said that belief and level of trust “is gone forever.”
The conservative justice aslo mentioned the protests being conducted by abortion activists outside of some of the justices’ private residences. He noted that conservatives have never acted in the same way.
He said that conservatives would never visit the homes of justices when a decision did not go their way. He said they do not “throw temper tantrums” and should always avoid the temptation to “repay tit for tat.”
Each justice on the court has four law clerks at any given time. The group of clerks have been the center of speculation regarding the source of the leak, as they are part of a very small number of people with access to draft opinions and communications within the court.