Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suddenly has concerns about the integrity of the Court. Weighing in on the leak of the draft opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Thomas echoed sentiments previously expressed by Chief Justice John Roberts about the integrity and trust within the Court.
Thomas also expressed discontent at outrage at the draft opinion’s rationale, saying the Court cannot be bullied. During a recent judicial conference in Atlanta, Reuters quoted Thomas saying that people “are becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like.” His statement is the height of privilege and disregard for personal privacy and autonomy.
“We can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want,” Thomas continued. “The events from earlier this week are a symptom of that.”
If Thomas wants people to accept outcomes, he needs to start at home with his wife. For all of his posturing about standards like integrity, Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas — a major right-wing donor and “activist” — actively texted former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about overturning the 2020 election.
Her support for efforts to undermine the legitimate transfer of power between Trump and the incoming Biden administration has been well documented. While Thomas is not responsible for his wife’s actions, his insistence that she is being unfairly maligned speaks to a bigger issue with his judgment and intellectual dishonesty.
And Thomas is the last person to question concerns about integrity in any institution, particularly the Supreme Court. Thomas is a walking integrity problem, from the credible sexual assault claims that came to light during his confirmation hearing to repeating Fox News talking points. During a March event sponsored by the Orrin Hatch, Thomas blasted the idea of expanding the Court, commonly called “Court-packing” by conservatives. Note, if Congress were to take action and change the Court’s current composition, it would be within its right to do so. Congress can create additional seats on the Supreme Court; it could also establish an ethics code for the high court.
Bottomline, people demanding respect for their bodily autonomy are not bullies. And the projection in Thomas’ statement about forcing outcomes is rich, considering the Court’s conservative majority is trying to throw away nearly 50 years of established legal precedent that expanded rights and access in favor of regressive logic rooted in a history of legal decision-making from the 1600s that would’ve excluded the rights and personhood of many people currently in the country.
Expecting the Supreme Court to uphold existing precedent is not bullying or trying to force outcomes. The Supreme Court may act like some disinterested body making academic decisions on legal theory, but the justices are very clear on the partisan implications of their actions.
The Supreme Court doesn’t even have a code of ethics. An analysis from the Brennan Center argued that adopting an ethics code could help provide better guardrails for when justices should recuse themselves from cases.
“A code of conduct isn’t a cure-all, but having one could allow for more detailed guidance on when justices’ recusal is required,” read the report. “A code could also set up other guardrails to help restore public confidence in the Court, including addressing when and how justices can participate in events with prominent politicians or other political figures — a common practice, and one that research suggests the public views as inappropriate.”
Although the leaked decision is simply a draft, the repercussions of the highest court in the land adopting such extreme positions legitimize actions and framework. Thomas’ statements also make it clear that the majority of the Supreme Court is not loyal to the virtues of liberty and freedom but to an institution and empire that thrives off of the mistreatment of marginalized communities.