Justice Clarence Thomas is defending the independence of the Supreme Court amid media criticism that he and his eight colleagues are just politicians in robes — saying the categorization is going to “jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.”
“I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference,” Thomas, 73, said during a lecture at the University of Notre Dame Thursday, the Washington Post reported.
“So if they think you are anti-abortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician,” he said.
“That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions,” he added in the response to a question about misconceptions about the independence of the High Court.
Thomas also criticized some in the judiciary for trying to assume the role of legislators and politicians, saying lower court judges do make policy or base decisions on their personal feelings or religious beliefs.
He said judges “venturing into areas we should not have entered into” is part of why the nomination process, particularly for federal judges with lifetime appointments like himself, is so fraught.
“The court was thought to be the least dangerous branch and we may have become the most dangerous — and I think that’s problematic,” he said.
Thomas — the most senior justice on a court that grew more conservative under President Donald Trump – addressed the Catholic school two weeks after he was among the majority in the 5-4 vote to deny an emergency appeal of a new Texas law banning most abortions.
The court suggested it was not its last word on the matter.
The law is the broadest restriction of abortion rights since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that women have a right to abortion.
Thomas has called on the court to overturn the landmark decision that extended abortion rights across the country, and he was one of four justices who would have overturned it in a 1992 decision.
Asked if there have been times when he had to resolve legal questions that conflict with his Catholic faith, Thomas said it has not been a problem for him but added that some cases were very hard.
“You do your job and you go cry alone,” said Thomas, who was accused of sexual harassment by former employee Anita Hill during his own 1991 confirmation hearing. He has denied the allegations.
He told the audience that “the craziness” during his confirmation was the result of the politicization of the judiciary, saying “it was absolutely about abortion, a matter I had not thought deeply about at the time.”
Three people were escorted out after yelling, “I still believe Anita Hill!”
Meanwhile, US District Judge Robert Pitman on Thursday denied the US Justice Department’s request to temporarily halt Texas’ abortion ban.
The Obama appointee also ruled that the Oct. 1 hearing on the matter will not be rescheduled sooner.
The Justice Department argued for an injunction citing the violation of women’s constitutional rights.
“Because all providers in Texas are adhering to SB 8 the vast majority of women seeking abortions in Texas are being turned away,” the DOJ said.
“All the while, clinics in neighboring states are receiving panicked calls from patients in Texas and continue to see ‘large increases in minor patients, survivors of sexual assault, patients with a maternal or fetal diagnosis, and patients with later gestational ages.”
With Post wires