U.S. Supreme Court

Is Gorsuch ruffling feathers? Thomas calls his new colleague 'a good man'

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Justice Neil M. Gorsuch being sworn in last spring.

Some published reports have indicated that Justice Neil M. Gorsuch could be irritating some of his colleagues and clashing with Justice Elena Kagan.

But Justice Clarence Thomas is challenging those reports in a rare media interview, according to the National Law Journal (sub. req.) and Above the Law. Thomas spoke with his former law clerk, Laura Ingraham, in an interview on Fox News that aired Wednesday.

Ingraham asked if there was anything to the reports that Gorsuch was ruffling some feathers.

“Well, I don’t have any feathers,” Thomas replied, “So I’m certainly not a part of that.”

“He is a good man,” Thomas said of Gorsuch, “and I have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Thomas acknowledged there is an “adjustment period” after a justice joins the Supreme Court.

“When you’re new on the court, you’re trying to find your way. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of personal adjustments,” he said. “This is not the court of appeals. This court is quite different.”

Gorsuch had aligned himself with Thomas after joining the court, voting for the same disposition as him 100 percent of the time, according to a report last summer. Gorsuch wasn’t a mere follower, however.

According to the New York Times, Gorsuch “tangled with his new colleagues, lectured them on the role of the institution he had just joined, and made broad jurisprudential pronouncements in minor cases.”

Some reports indicate that Gorsuch’s demeanor is irking some colleagues.

CNN reported last month that Gorsuch “has generated some ill will among justices,” attributing the information to word seeping out from clerks, staffers, friends and the justices themselves. Gorsuch “has shaken relations at the high court with actions that show—depending on one’s view—a degree of arrogance or independence,” according to the report by CNN legal analyst Joan Biskupic.

Another report comes from NPR’s Nina Totenberg on her First Mondays podcast; Slate has a summary of her remarks. Gorsuch “ticks off some members of the court—and I don’t think it’s just the liberals,” she said

Totenberg went on to say that she is hearing that Kagan has taken Gorsuch on in conference. “And that it’s a pretty tough battle and it’s going to get tougher,” Totenberg said. “He has a tin ear somehow, and he doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the conversation.”

Thomas, however, said relationships are collegial at the Supreme Court.

“It is a good place to work,” he told Ingraham. “You can disagree with this opinion or that, but I’m not the person to say it is a sour place or it is a dour place or that it is funereal. … It is a wonderful place to work.”

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