Justice Sonia Sotomayor Surprises with Impassioned Defense of Ideological Opponent Clarence Thomas
The two ideological opposites on the Supreme Court are Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor. Yet, despite their stark differences when it comes to interpreting and applying the law, Sotomayor praised her colleague in a recent speech.
During an address at the American Constitution Society on Thursday, the liberal Sotomayor spoke about how the conservative Thomas is a man of true kindness and cares deeply about people, Fox News reported.
“I suspect I have probably disagreed with him more than with any other justice, that we have not joined each other’s opinions more than anybody else,” Sotomayor said.
“And yet Justice Thomas is the one justice in the building that literally knows every employee’s name — every one of them. And not only does he know their names, he remembers their families’ names and histories.
“He’s the first one who will go up to someone when you’re walking with him and say, ‘Is your son OK? How’s your daughter doing in college?’ He’s the first one that, when my stepfather died, sent me flowers in Florida,” she added.
“He is a man who cares deeply about the court as an institution, about the people who work there.”
Sotomayor’s praise of Thomas comes in the midst of a tense time for the court as the nation awaits its decisions on several big cases, including the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
After the leak of a draft majority opinion in Dobbs overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has been undergoing an investigation while also trying to get out dozens of decisions before the end of its term.
Thomas himself has spoken publicly about his disappointment regarding the leaked draft and the fact that there is a mole somewhere in the court.
“There’s such a belief in the rule of law, belief in the court, belief in what we’re doing, that that was verboten. And look where we are, where now that trust or that belief is gone forever,” Thomas said.
“And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity, that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.”
The leak sparked illegal protests by abortion advocates outside the homes of the conservative justices. The unrest culminated in a failed assassination attempt against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
This is also a tense time for Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, as the House Jan. 6 committee is seeking information from her about the Capitol incursion, The Hill reported.
But although the court, and Thomas in particular, is facing such tense circumstances, Sotomayor still spoke warmly about him.
“I think we share a common understanding about people and kindness towards them,” she said. “That’s why I can be friends with him and still continue our daily battle over our difference of opinions in cases.”
Friendship despite deep ideological differences is not unusual on the court.
The late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia were famous for their friendship even as they fiercely disagreed on constitutional issues.
Even Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a relative newcomer to the court, has said political differences do not stand in the way of friendships.
“I have friends who disagree with me vehemently about all kinds of things,” she said, according to Fox. “But I think that is dehumanizing if we reduce people to the political or policy differences that we might have with one another.”
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