As he celebrated his 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas told an audience at the Heritage Foundation that Washington D.C. is “broken.”
Thomas bemoaned the lack of civility among the members of government , allowing that the Supreme Court also was culpable for the current acrimonious climate. He stated, “This city is broken in some ways. At some point, we are going to have to recognize that we are destroying our institutions,” adding that members of the government “aren’t thinking things through … We have decided rather than confront disagreements and the differences of opinion, we will simply annihilate the person who disagrees.” He said of the Supreme Court: “What have we done to gain their confidence? Perhaps we should ask ourselves what we have done to not earn it or to earn it.”
Thomas spoke powerfully about his friend and fellow justice, the late Antonin Scalia, saying they shared philosophic perspectives despite the fact that they hailed from entirely different backgrounds: “He was from the north, and I was from the south, but we wound up at the same place,” adding that Scalia was a perfectionist about minute details as well as more macrocosmic matters: “He did the small, he did the big, he cared about it all. That teaches you a lesson — that it all matters.” Noting that Scalia loved opera, he joked, “I like opera, I just don’t want to be around the people who like opera.” He said when Scalia tried to get him to go hunting, Thomas responded, “No good comes from being in the woods.”
Thomas also reiterated his firm belief that prior Supreme Court precedents should be jettisoned if they do not honor the principles of the Constitution, asserting, “”I think we’re obligated to make the constitution and what we write about the Constitution accessible to our fellow citizens. That empowers people by giving them a sense of the Constitution … You’ve got lots of precedents out there that have been changed. I believe we are obligated to rethink things constantly.”
“We have decided rather than confront disagreements and the differences of opinion, we will simply annihilate the person who disagrees.”
Thomas argued in favor of making justices’ opinions more accessible to the average citizen, saying, “I think we are obligated to make the Constitution and what we write about the Constitution accessible to citizens.” He acknowledged that the sources he trusts for “friend of the court” briefs must stem from reliable sources, such as the U.S. solicitor general’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union.