Hours before the Supreme Court shut down any hope of halting the extreme Texas abortion ban that went into effect last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Justice Clarence Thomas.
Guardian Columnist Moira Donegan caught the questionable conflict of interest. Per the recap Donegan shared, during remarks at a Heritage Foundation event, McConnell called Justice Thomas “a ‘legal titan’ whose independence and courage are illustrated through his ‘jurisprudence on unborn life.’”
Thomas has been a source of political contention ever since his confirmation process thirty years ago. Days before President George Bush nominated Thomas to the Bench, Justice Thurgood Marshall spoke about not wanting a token appointment to replace him. He said someone should be picked for the right reasons and not just a token appointment with an agenda.
Thomas’ wife continues to be a source of contention for her support of activities leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. A high-profile conservative “activist,” Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, was among leading national conservatives that repeated former President Donald Trump’s distortions about the November 2020 election. She also expressed support for Trump’s Jan. 6 rally, seen by some as a contributing factor to the attack later that day.
Whether it’s fair for political figures to be held accountable for their spouse’s behavior and actions, their actions can reflect on the public position.
In recent weeks, conversations about the partisan nature of the Supreme Court have played out across social media. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has been held up as an example of partisanship and the Court, claimed partisan considerations do not sway the Court’s nine members.
Speaking last month at a Kentucky Center named after McConnell, Barrett claimed the justices weren’t “partisan hacks” in response to criticisms of decisions made by the current Court. She declined to allow her remarks to be live-streamed or even recorded.
Whether the justices see themselves as partisan actors, their judicial rationalizations and determinations play into partisan rhetoric. The lines become blurred even further when justices step into clearly biased arenas like a Heritage Foundation event with people backing a particular position before the Court.
Pretending to be non-partisan in their interpretation of the law and cases upon review does the American public a disservice. But also, it subverts the constitution. Personal beliefs and leanings should not interfere with protecting constitutional rights against glaring intrusions on people’s freedom.