Clarence Thomas Decries Cancel Culture, Proposals to Pack the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his chambers at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., June 6, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters )

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday said he is worried that any potential expansion of the Supreme Court could compromise its integrity.

“You can cavalierly talk about packing or stacking the court. You can cavalierly talk about doing this or doing that. At some point the institution is going to be compromised,” Thomas said in remarks at a Utah event hosted by former Republican Senator Orrin Hatch’s foundation, according to the Associated Press.

Thomas, who is the most senior justice on the court, also expressed concern about the long-term consequences of cancel culture.

“I’m afraid, particularly in this world of cancel culture attack, I don’t know where you’re going to learn to engage as we did when I grew up,” he said. “If you don’t learn at that level in high school, in grammar school, in your neighborhood, or in civic organizations, then how do you have it when you’re making decisions in government, in the legislature, or in the courts?”

A number of progressive Democrats have pushed President Biden to expand the Supreme Court after Republicans moved to quickly confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett just weeks before the 2020 election. Her confirmation created a conservative majority on the court.

Thomas’s comments come months after a commission formed by President Biden to study potential reforms to the U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously in December to approve a final report that takes “no position” on Court-packing. 

The panel, which Biden formed in April to study Court expansion and reform, sent a nearly 300-page report to the president that offers arguments for and against Court-packing, judicial term limits and other matters related to the high Court, but does not provide any recommendations. 

“Given the size and nature of the Commission and the complexity of the issues addressed, individual members of the Commission would have written the Report with different emphases and approaches,” the report’s summary said. “But the Commission submits this Report today in the belief that it represents a fair and constructive treatment of the complex and often highly controversial issues it was charged with examining.”

The report noted that “no serious person, in either major political party, suggests court packing as a means of overturning disliked Supreme Court decisions, whether the decision in question is Roe v. Wade or Citizens United.”

“Scholars could say, until very recently, that even as compared to other court reform efforts, ‘court-packing’ is especially out of bounds,” it said. “This is part of the convention of judicial independence.”

However, it added that the commission “takes no position on the validity or strength of these claims.”

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