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It appears that collegiality isn’t quite dead at the Supreme Court. Liberal Justice Sonia “Wise Latina” Sotomayor came to the defense of her embattled colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas, claiming he is a “friend” who cares “deeply about the court.”
Sotomayor gave a speech to the American Constitution Society on Thursday in which she showered praise on Thomas.
“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,” said Sotomayor. “He is a man who cares deeply about the court as an institution, about the people who work there.”
“I think we share a common understanding about people and kindness toward them,” she added. “That’s why I can be friends with him and still continue our daily battle over our difference of opinions in cases.”
The comments came as the nation awaits a ruling on Roe v. Wade, and as the Jan. 6 House committee seeks information from Thomas’ wife Ginni Thomas regarding communication about the 2020 election.
“Justice Thomas is the one justice in the building that literally knows every employee’s name, every one of them. . . . he is a man who cares deeply about the court as an institution, about the people who work there — about people.” – Justice Sotomayor pic.twitter.com/Pz4TKWeFi3
— JCN (@judicialnetwork) June 17, 2022
Sotomayor and Thomas’ friendship is not unique among Supreme Court justices. The late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia have often been held up as a triumph of friendship over partisan politics.
Ginsburg said after Scalia’s death that the two found common ground more often than most people realize, even as they jousted fiercely on hot-button constitutional cases.
The court used to be a lot more collegial, as Thomas himself pointed out. “We actually trusted — we might have been a dysfunctional family, but we were a family,” Thomas said at a conference last month sponsored by AIE. “You trusted each other, laughed together. You went to lunch together every day. … This is not the court of that era.”
Allahpundit marveled that Sotomayor made these remarks in front of a left-wing audience.
It’s remarkable that she’d go to bat for Thomas in a roomful of lefties when we’re probably just days away from Roe being overturned. Maybe that’s who she is, able to compartmentalize her political grievances from her personal feelings to an unusual degree in this era. Or maybe the justices have decided, individually or collectively, that the institutional blow they took from the Dobbs draft being leaked needs to be remedied somehow. If you’re worried about the public viewing the Court as just another political actor bitterly divided along partisan lines, one way to counter that impression is to remind the public that the justices admire each other. You’ll never catch someone in Congress saying that about someone on the other side. It could be, in other words, that Sotomayor’s engaged in a small bit of institutional credibility-building here.
“Wise Catholic” Amy Comey Barrett said something that everyone from both sides of the political divide should take to heart. “You know I have friends who disagree with me vehemently about all kinds of things, but I think that is dehumanizing if we reduce people to the political or policy differences that we might have with one another,” she said during her confirmation hearing.