Sotomayor defends Thomas to progressives, says they share understanding of kindness

The left-leaning Supreme Court Justice praised her conservative colleague's character and professional conduct to a group of progressive attorneys.

Updated: June 20, 2022 - 11:13am

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During a recent address to progressive lawyers at the annual meeting of the American Constitution Society, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke highly of fellow Justice Clarence Thomas and his personal and professional conduct.

At the meeting Thursday, Sotomayor described Thomas as "a man who cares deeply about the court as an institution" and "about the people who work there."

She said he is the justice with whom she disagrees "more than with any other justice," but that, in contrast to the image generated by Thomas's often harsh critics, he is "the one justice in the building that literally knows every employee's name."

"And not only does he know their names, he remembers their families' names and their histories," she said. "He's the first one who will go up to someone when you're walking with him and say, 'Is your son okay? How's your daughter doing in college?'"

"He's the first one that, when my stepfather died, sent me flowers in Florida," she told the meeting. 

Sotomayor said she and Thomas have different visions "about how to help people and their responsibilities to help themselves." But she said she believes the two justices remain friends because they "share a common understanding about people and kindness toward them."

"That's why I can be friends with him and still continue our daily battle over our difference of opinions in cases."

Sotomayor said the group should continue to "have faith in the court system and our system of government." She did not explicitly address the recent unprecedented leak of a draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade. The final judgement in that case has not been issued, but is expected before the court breaks for summer recess.