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Tipsheet

Clarence Thomas Rips Court Packing, Cancel Culture During Utah Speech

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said efforts to increase the number of justices on the bench may compromise the integrity of the court and expressed his concern over the potential long-term consequences cancel culture could have on civil debate.

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Speaking in Utah on Friday at an event hosted by former GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch's foundation, Thomas decried the progressive push to expand the Supreme Court.

"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, according to The Associated Press.

"By doing this, you continue to chip away at the respect of the institutions that the next generation is going to need if they’re going to have civil society," he continued.

Several progressive Democrats warned of an expansion of the Supreme Court following the September 2020 death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg over concern that then-President Donald Trump would nominate her replacement prior to the presidential election, which was less than two months away. Justice Amy Coney Barrett's swift confirmation just ahead of the 2020 election then solidified the 6-3 conservative majority on the bench.

The push by Democrats to expand the Supreme Court continued after President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

Last spring, Democrats introduced legislation to add four additional justices to the bench and Biden created a commission to examine potential court expansion and reform.

In December, the commission voted unanimously to take "no position" on packing the court, noting that there is "profound disagreement among Commissioners."

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During his Utah speech, Thomas also criticized cancel culture, fearing the repercussions on civil arguments.

"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?"

Thomas went on to say that he viewed civility as one of his highest values and noted that, when he attended school, he was taught to respect institutions and to debate civilly with individuals who disagreed with him. 

He explained that, based on conversations with students at his campus lectures in recent years, he does not believe colleges welcome productive civil debate, especially when it comes to students who oppose abortion or who value the nuclear family.

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