Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Thursday the high court occasionally makes mistakes, but it can correct its path and perception with the public.
Speaking to a liberal legal group, American Constitution Society, the Obama-appointee said she believed the court could “regain the public’s confidence.”
Justice Sotomayor also had kind words about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s most senior conservative jurist, who she often disagrees with when handing down rulings
“He is a man who cares deeply about the court as an institution, about the people who work there,” Justice Sotomayor said.
Her comments were made as Justice Thomas’ wife has come under scrutiny by House Democrats for texts she exchanged with allies of former President Donald Trump attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
Democratic lawmakers have argued Justice Thomas should recuse himself from election or Trump-related cases, while others have suggested he should resign over his wife’s communications.
Additionally, approval of the Supreme Court fell 10 percentage points following the leak of a draft opinion suggesting the justices are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision giving women a national right to an abortion, according to a poll from Marquette University released last month.
It was the first time a full draft opinion has been leaked in the Supreme Court’s 233-year history.
The survey showed 44% of Americans approve of the job the high court is doing, while 55% disapprove. In March, 54% had approved while and 45% disapproved.
The results came roughly three weeks after the draft opinion was leaked to Politico.
Pro-choice protesters have been appearing outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices since the news broke. One activist was even arrested recently for the attempted murder of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
The justices are weighing Mississippi’s ban on abortion at 15 weeks in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Mississippi officials argued that Roe should be overturned because it’s outdated. The state said the viability standard set out in Roe was unclear, and Mississippi had an interest in banning abortions after 15 weeks to protect women’s health and that of unborn children.
The legal battle was brought by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s only abortion clinic, and a doctor who provides abortions. According to court papers, the clinic had provided abortions up to 16 weeks of gestation.
They challenged the state’s Gestational Age Act, enacted in 2018. The law banned abortions after 15 weeks unless there is a medical emergency or severe abnormality within the fetus.
The abortion providers told the court in their filing that the state’s interest in the woman’s health and children doesn’t begin until viability, which occurs “months” after the 15-week marker set in the law.
In the draft opinion leaked to Politico in May, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said abortion laws should return to the state legislatures.
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion,” he wrote. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”
“It’s time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” reads the draft opinion, which was dated in February.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the draft opinion was authentic but noted that it did not represent a final ruling. He ordered the court’s marshal to investigate who leaked the document.
The official ruling is expected to be released by the end of June.
Meanwhile, Republican senators have pushed for Attorney General Merrick Garland to take action against the progressive protesters, arguing it is unlawful for them to try to influence a sitting justice during pending litigation.
They said the political environment is becoming increasingly dangerous after a California man was arrested last week in front of Justice Kavanaugh’s home where he planned to murder the justice, angry over the upcoming ruling on abortion as well as recent mass shootings.
A spokesperson from the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.