U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Thomas says media jeopardizes faith in legal institutions by equating decisions with personal views

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Clarence THomas

Justice Clarence Thomas.

Justice Clarence Thomas echoed recent comments by two other Supreme Court justices on Thursday when he criticized media reports that appear to suggest judges make decisions based on personal views.

“I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference,” Thomas said, according to an account by the Washington Post. “So, if they think you are antiabortion 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.”

“That’s a problem,” Thomas said. “You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.”

Thomas spoke at the University of Notre Dame after receiving an invitation from the university’s new Center for Citizenship & Constitutional Government, the South Bend Tribune reports. The Associated Press and CNN also have coverage. How Appealing links to the YouTube video.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor, recently criticized media reporting for making court decisions seem results-oriented. Barrett said judges make decisions based on judicial philosophies. Justice Stephen G. Breyer made similar points during his book tour when he said justices aren’t “junior league” politicians.

In his lecture, Thomas focused on the Declaration of Independence, saying it espoused ideals of equality that hold promise, according to the South Bend Tribune account. Even though he grew up amid segregation and race-based laws in Georgia, there was a deep and abiding love for country and the desire to have the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship, he said.

“Today, there’s a notable pessimism about the state of our country, and cynicism about our founding,” Thomas said. “There are some that would even cancel our founders. We are all aware of those who assert … that American is a racist and irredeemable nation, but there are many more of us, I think, that feel that America is not so broken as it is adrift at sea.”

Thomas didn’t address proposals to change the Supreme Court by expanding it or imposing term limits on service. But he did comment generally on upholding institutions.

“I think we should be careful destroying our institutions because they don’t give us what we want when we want it,” he said. “I think we should be really, really careful.”

He recalled his grandfather’s question regarding destroying institutions. “After you’ve done that, and now what? What’s your next step?” he had asked.

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