Justice Clarence Thomas hit back against recent politicization of the Supreme Court by politicians and the media, adding that the high court has become the ‘most dangerous branch’ of government.
‘The court was thought to be the least dangerous branch and we may have become the most dangerous,’ Thomas said. ‘And I think that’s problematic.’
Thomas, the court’s most senior member who was nominated by George H.W. Bush, gave a rare public address at Notre Dame University.
He said that justices do not rule on their ‘personal preferences’ and the country’s leaders ‘should not allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcome that we like.’
Thomas, 73, said of judges: ‘When we begin to venture into the legislative or executive branch lanes, those of us, particularly in the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments, are asking for trouble.’
‘I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference. So if they think you are antiabortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out,’ the justice said, per the Washington Post. ‘They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician.’
‘That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.’
Thomas, himself a Catholic, was asked at the Catholic university whether his faith had ever conflicted with his legal rulings.
‘There are some things that conflict very strongly with my personal opinion, my policy preferences, and those were very, very hard, particularly early on.’
‘I don’t do a lot of hand wringing in my opinions and tell people, ‘oh, I’m really sad.’ That’s not the role of a judge. You do your job and you go cry alone.’
‘I think we should be careful destroying our institutions because they don’t give us what we want, when we want it,’ Thomas said, pushing back against recent pushes to pack the court.
Thomas, pictured above at Notre Dame on Thursday, said: ‘we should be careful destroying our institutions because they don’t give us what we want, when we want it’
Thomas is the latest of a number of justices to push back against the politicization of the high court
Democrats have pushed to expand the bench from nine seats to 13 after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and hasty confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace her in the weeks before the 2020 election.
The high court now has six justices appointed by a Republican president, half from President Trump, and three appointed under Democrats.
Last week the court drew liberal ire when it denied and emergency request and allowed a Texas abortion law to move forward, but said it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the matter.
Thomas has called on the court to overturn Roe v. Wade, and was one of four justices who would have done so in a 1992 decision. Thomas said he believed abortion had played a role in the Anita Hill controversy that shrouded his confirmation in 1991.
Hill accused him of sexually assaulting her, charges Thomas denied. Thomas said the ‘craziness’ of his confirmation process was politically driven. ‘It was absolutely about abortion, a matter I had not thought deeply about at the time.’
Thursday’s address was a rare public foray for the typically reticent justice. Thomas has gone years on the bench without asking a question during arguments before the court, but asked a question at every one of the remote telephone arguments of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thomas is the latest justice to push back against politicizing the court, as liberal Democrats have made a push for Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, to retire so that President Biden can replace him while he still has a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Barrett earlier this week said the court ‘is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks’ and that the court is separated by judicial philosophies, not political parties.
Breyer last week warned against packing the court, arguing: ‘What goes around comes around – and if the Democrats can do it, the Republicans can do it.’