If the Court loses its legitimacy, can its authority be far behind?

To the Honorable Clarence Thomas, Co-Judge of the United States Supreme Court:

Dear Sir:

Have you ever met your wife?

Yes, it’s a brazen question, but it seems justified by the speech you gave Friday at a judicial conference in Atlanta and a question-and-answer session that followed. In an obvious reference to the bombshell leak of a draft opinion quashing Roe v. Wade, you bemoaned that institutions are “bullied” and said that the judiciary is threatened if people don’t want to “live with results.” with which we disagree”.

You said this despite the fact that your 35-year-old bride, conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed she had made plans with the Trump White House to keep him in power despite his election defeat. Reiterating his baseless claims of fraud, she even joined the Jan. 6 crowd that gathered to overturn the election, though she claims she broke up with them before storming the U.S. Capitol.

Mrs. Thomas then, frankly, is a model child for those who would bully institutions or refuse to live with outcomes they don’t like. That you bring up those concerns with a straight face and not a single mention of her name suggests that the two of you have not been properly introduced or that you are a man of staggering hypocrisy and deep intellectual dishonesty. You wouldn’t like to find those qualities in a man who oversees the traffic court, let alone one who sits on the Supreme Court.

Here’s the thing, sir: there are rules. Adherence to them, the ability to trust them, is what enables a society to function. Some lines are written, some aren’t, but the fact that they aren’t doesn’t make them any less critical. One such unwritten rule is that the Supreme Court’s collegial confidentiality is sacred. So yeah, it’s a shame a leaker has leaked.

But he or she isn’t the first to break the court’s unwritten standards. One of your colleagues is occupying a chair that was stolen for him from President Obama. Another occupied a seat she had been crammed into eight days before the 2020 election by the same Republicans who had said nine months was too close to Election Day 2016 to consider Obama’s candidate. Some transparently lied when they testified in hearings that they respected Roe as an established law. And really, sir, isn’t it a little inappropriate for the wife of a Supreme Court judge to be part of a conspiracy to nullify an election? Or that he fails to withdraw from the resulting cases?

As Americans, we have traditionally respected the Supreme Court’s rulings, even when they were horrific, even as they threw the nation backwards, because as stupid or terrible as they were, we viewed the court itself as an apolitical and duly constituted tribunal. In a word, it was legit. But in their bare-knuckle, ends-justifies-the-means approach of the court, conservatives have destroyed that piece of bourgeois faith.

No wonder a Gallup poll in September found court approval at 40%, the lowest Gallup has ever recorded, and a sharp drop from 58% the year before. One cringes at the thought of where it stands now. And one wonders: If the Court loses its legitimacy, can its authority be far behind?

In light of that question, is your problem that an anonymous leaker has breached confidentiality? Sir, maybe that person is wondering why he or she has to respect the rules.

It doesn’t seem like anyone else is.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. ©2022 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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