Clarence Thomas: Government institutions can't be bullied into outcomes

Clarence Thomas: Government institutions can't be bullied into outcomes
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is worried about declining respect for the rule of law and institutions. He told judges and lawyers at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference that government agencies cannot be bullied into giving people outcomes that they want. He specifically dinged young people for their “different attitude” toward respect for the law.


The conference was held in Atlanta. Justice Thomas is the point of contact at the Supreme Court for emergencies that arise from the 11th Circuit which covers cases in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Though he wasn’t able to directly address the leaked draft opinion that came from the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v Wade, he mentioned the “unfortunate events” of the past week during the question and answer portion of the event. The question and answer session was led by a former clerk. Thomas said he is worried about a “different attitude of the young” who show a lack of respect for institutions.

“It bodes ill for a free society,” he said. It can’t be that institutions “give you only the outcome you want, or can be bullied” to do the same, he said.

The court’s longest-serving justice said he also worried about a “different attitude of the young” that might not show the same respect for the law as past generations did. “Recent events have shown this major change,” he said.

Thomas is the member of the court least likely to adhere to stare decisis, the principle of letting past decisions stand. In past cases, including Casey, he called for Roe to be overturned.

On Friday, he did not link his views to the current controversy over Roe but repeated that important decisions he thinks were wrongly decided should be corrected.

“We use stare decisis as a mantra when we don’t want to think,” Thomas said.


Chief Justice Roberts called the leak “absolutely appalling” when he addressed the conference on Thursday. He said the leaked draft was not the final opinion and an investigation is underway. If the leaked draft turns out to be the final decision, Roe v Wade would be overturned and abortion would immediately be illegal in at least thirteen states, with more states expected to make the same laws. Roberts said he hopes “one bad apple” doesn’t change “people’s perception” of the Supreme Court.

Roberts has called upon Col. Gail Curley, the current Marshal of the Supreme Court to conduct the investigation into the leaked draft. She is a former career Army lawyer.

Thomas is correct to note the lack of respect that people, especially younger people, have for institutions in life today. It seems like the first inclination is to burn it down, whatever institution it is, when decisions don’t go their way. Peaceful protests are a fundamental right in America but when that right is abused, people must be held responsible. In this case, pro-abortion protesters are being organized and instructed to go to the homes of justices to protest, as well as to disrupt church services on Sunday, Mother’s Day.

A post written by legal eagle J. Christian Adams for our sister publication, PJ Media, asks if these protesters, like the faux Handmaids, know that by protesting at the private homes of justices they are breaking the law and can find themselves in jail. I don’t think they’ll be allowed to wear those long red capes in the Big House.


You might just win a free trip if you follow through on the threat to “protest at Supreme Court Justice’s homes.” The Virginia Correctional Facility for Woman in Goochland awaits anyone who acts out their rage and shows up out of control at a Supreme Court Justice’s residence in response to the unethical and unprecedented leak of a draft opinion in the Dobbs abortion case.

The people of Virginia have decided that it is a crime to protest at a Virginian’s home.

Virginia Code Section 18.2-418 states:

It is hereby declared that the protection and preservation of the home is the keystone of democratic government; that the public health and welfare and the good order of the community require that members of the community enjoy in their homes a feeling of well-being, tranquility, and privacy, and when absent from their homes carry with them the sense of security inherent in the assurance that they may return to the enjoyment of their homes…

They can protest all they want – peacefully – on public property but not at a private residence. They can don pink pussy hats and shout at the sky to their heart’s content. However, in a civil society, there are some rules that must be adhered to. A community has the right to the expectation of law abiding neighborhoods. Neighbors of the justices, as well as their own families, didn’t sign on to the justices’ decisions to serve on the highest court in the land. It is not right that they be dragged into the fray. Frankly, it’s dangerous, especially in today’s overheated political atmosphere.


Police can arrest protesters at Supreme Court Justices’ homes in Virginia. Virginia Code 18.2-419:

Any person who shall engage in picketing before or about the residence or dwelling place of any individual, or who shall assemble with another person or persons in a manner which disrupts or threatens to disrupt any individual’s right to tranquility in his home, shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. Each day on which a violation of this section occurs shall constitute a separate offense.

Last, Virginia courts are given the power to stop all protests at a Virginian’s home. Better yet, courts have the power to award punitive damages against any protester who violates this Virginia law. Again, Section 419:

Notwithstanding the penalties herein provided, any court of general equity jurisdiction may enjoin conduct, or threatened conduct, proscribed by this article, and may in any such proceeding award damages, including punitive damages, against the persons found guilty of actions made unlawful by this section.

For example, a radical leftist group, Ruth Sent Us, is a major force in organizing protests that personally protest the justices. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced legislation this week expanding protections for Supreme Court justices and their families. The legislation allows Supreme Court police to arrest protesters who interfere with the court’s ability to do its work. It creates criminal penalties for those involved in disrupting the court’s duties. “Attempts to intimidate Supreme Court Justices by the Radical Left are sadly nothing new, but dangerous nonetheless,” Cornyn said in a statement. “We must protect the Justices and their families in case these protests do turn violent.” Cornyn understands the dangers of overheated protesters. He was a member of the Texas Supreme Court and the former Attorney General of Texas.


Some protesters are apparently being paid to protest. Will legal funds be available to them if they get arrested? After seeing politicians like Kamala Harris encourage leftists to donate to provide bail money for protesters during the Summer of Love, anything is possible.

Will the angry mob be deterred by reminders that they can be arrested for protesting outside the residences of the justices? Three of the six conservative justices are reported to live in Virginia. We’ll see how far this goes. Is using Mother’s Day to protest overturning Roe v Wade going to sway the justices to rethink their votes? I think Clarence Thomas is saying loud and clear that they won’t be bullied by them.

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