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Justice Thomas decries 'nastiness' and 'lies' against him

Justice Clarence Thomas poses for a photo at the Supreme Court building in Washington on Oct. 7, 2022. Thomas told attendees at a judicial conference Friday that he and his wife have faced "nastiness and lies" over the last several years. He also decried Washington, D.C., as a "hideous place."
J. Scott Applewhite
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AP
Justice Clarence Thomas poses for a photo at the Supreme Court building in Washington on Oct. 7, 2022. Thomas told attendees at a judicial conference Friday that he and his wife have faced "nastiness and lies" over the last several years. He also decried Washington, D.C., as a "hideous place."

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told attendees at a judicial conference Friday that he and his wife have faced "nastiness" and "lies" over the last several years and decried Washington, D.C., as a "hideous place."

Thomas spoke at a conference attended by judges, attorneys and other court personnel in the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference, which hears federal cases from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. He made the comments pushing back on his critics in response to a question about working in a world that seems meanspirited.

"I think there's challenges to that. We're in a world and we — certainly my wife and I the last two or three years it's been — just the nastiness and the lies, it's just incredible," Thomas said.

"But you have some choices. You don't get to prevent people from doing horrible things or saying horrible things. But one you have to understand and accept the fact that they can't change you unless you permit that," Thomas said.

Thomas has faced criticisms that he accepted luxury trips from a GOP donor without reporting them. Thomas last year maintained that he didn't have to report the trips paid for by one of "our dearest friends." His wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas has faced criticism for using her Facebook page to amplify unsubstantiated claims of corruption by President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

He did not discuss the content of the criticisms directly, but said that "reckless" people in Washington will "bomb your reputation."

"They don't bomb you necessarily, but they bomb your reputation or your good name or your honor. And that's not a crime. But they can do as much harm that way," Thomas said.

During the appearance, Thomas was asked questions by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, one of Thomas' former law clerks who was later appointed to the federal bench. During his hour-long appearance, the longest-serving justice on the court discussed a wide range of topics including the lessons of his grandfather, his friendship with former colleagues and his belief that court writings and discussions should be more accessible for "regular people."

Thomas calls Washington "a hideous place"

Thomas, who spent most of his working life in Washington D.C., also discussed his dislike of it.

"I think what you are going to find and especially in Washington, people pride themselves on being awful. It is a hideous place as far as I'm concerned," Thomas said. Thomas said that it is one of the reasons he and his wife "like RVing."

"You get to be around regular people who don't pride themselves in doing harmful things, merely because they have the capacity to do it or because they disagree," Thomas said.

A recreational vehicle used by Thomas also became a source of controversy. Senate Democrats in October issued a report saying that most of the $267,000 loan obtained by Thomas to buy a high-end motorcoach appears to have been forgiven.

Thomas did not discuss the court's high-profile caseload.

The justice said he believed it is important to use language in court rulings so that the law is accessible to the average person.

"The regular people I think are being disenfranchised sometimes by the way that we talk about cases," Thomas said.

Thomas wasn't the only justice making a speaking appearance Friday.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh said Friday that U.S. history shows court decisions unpopular in their time later can become part of the "fabric of American constitutional law."

Kavanaugh spoke Friday at a conference attended by judges, attorneys and other court personnel in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi and is one of the most conservative circuits.

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