Justice Clarence Thomas said that the court draft leak could have a severe detriment to U.S. institutions on May 14 at the Old Parkland Conference in Dallas, Texas.
“What happened at the court was tremendously bad,” Thomas said, referring to a recent and unprecedented leak of a Supreme Court opinion draft that signaled the potential for returning abortion law to state legislatures. “I wonder how long we are going to have these institutions at the rate we are undermining them.”
The leak has caused outside pressures to try and influence the court’s ruling. If the court’s ruling can be affected by outside intimidation, there can be no true justice. Law would simply reflect whatever person or group was best able to influence the court.
“We are in danger of destroying the institutions that are required for a civil society,” Thomas warned in his talk. “You can’t have a civil society, a free society without a stable legal system.”
Before the leak, court members experienced relationships bonded by the trust to preserve the integrity of the law. Thomas said members of the court would never have imagined that a draft could be leaked. That belief was broken with the leak, along with the trust in the court. This erodes social trust and ultimately the rule of law.
“When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally,” Thomas said. “You begin to look over your shoulder.”
Court members now must be concerned about those they work with “who would have an attitude to leak docs.”
Thomas also discussed Soviet dissenter Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s essay, “Live Not by Lies.” He said our nation has allowed people to force others to live by lies. He admonished his audience to instead refuse to tell lies or repeat other people’s lies.
Tolerating and refusing to stand against lies lets those untruths grow wings, he noted. It’s those lies allowed to take flight that can destroy institutions.