Sotomayor Praises Thomas, Offers 'Pep Talk' to Progressives

Justice notes her colleague's kindness, deep concern over Supreme Court 'as an institution'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2022 2:16 PM CDT
Sotomayor: Thomas 'Cares Deeply' About the Court
In this photo taken Oct. 8, 2010, the US Supreme Court justices pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington. Sonia Sotomayor stands behind Clarence Thomas, seated far left.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Newser) – With polarizing cases on immigration, gun rights, and abortion rights looming, things are said to be tense within the walls of the Supreme Court Building. Not helping those tensions is the fact that a draft opinion of the latter case was leaked to Politico last month or the fact that Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, has been increasingly linked to attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Clarence Thomas himself last month suggested there's been a steep decline of trust among himself and his eight colleagues on the bench, waxing nostalgic about judges from the past he'd enjoyed working with, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If his current co-judge, Sonia Sotomayor, feels similarly, however, she's not letting on, sharing kind words about Thomas at a Thursday event.

"He is a man who cares deeply about the court as an institution," Sotomayor, a liberal, said of her conservative colleague at an appearance before the American Constitution Society, per the Hill. Sotomayor noted that, despite their differences at work, they both "share a common understanding about people and kindness towards them," citing how Thomas was the first one to send her flowers when her stepfather died. "Justice Thomas is the one justice in the building that literally knows every employee's name, every one of them," she said. "And not only does he know their names, he remembers their families' names and histories. ... He's the first one who will go up to someone when you're walking with him and say, 'Is your son OK? How's your daughter doing in college?'"

ABC News reports that Sotomayor also gave a "pep talk" of sorts to her mostly progressive audience, asking the group to stay optimistic about the judicial branch. "We have to have continuing faith in the court system, in our system of government," she said. She acknowledged "the battle each day to regain the public's confidence that we as a court, as an institution have not lost our way." Sotomayor also told the group that she's not giving up anytime soon. "If it doesn't kill me, it makes me stronger," she said. "That is what adversity does to you." ABC notes that Sotomayor is the first of the high court's three liberals to make public comments since the leaked draft opinion in the abortion rights case. Thomas, as previously mentioned, and Chief Justice John Roberts have already weighed in from the conservative side of the bench. (Read more Sonia Sotomayor stories.)

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