Justice Sotomayor praises Clarence Thomas as a 'friend' who 'cares deeply about the court'

Sonia Sotomayor says she and Clarence Thomas 'share a common understanding about people and kindness toward them'

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared for a public speech at the American Constitution Society on Thursday, and showered a conservative coworker with praise.

Sotomayor, often thought as one of the most liberal justices on the nation's highest court, attended a conference put on by the ACS. She took the opportunity to speak highly of Justice Clarence Thomas, her conservative colleague.

Sotomayor called Thomas her "friend" and spoke at length about his "kindness" and "care" for the people in the court.

"I suspect I have probably disagreed with him more than with any other justice, that we have not joined each other's opinions more than anybody else," said Sotomayor. "He is a man who cares deeply about the court as an institution, about the people who work there."

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Sonia Sotomayor sits during a group photo of the Supreme Court justices in Washington, April 23, 2021. 

Sonia Sotomayor sits during a group photo of the Supreme Court justices in Washington, April 23, 2021.  (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

"I think we share a common understanding about people and kindness toward them," she added. "That's why I can be friends with him and still continue our daily battle over our difference of opinions in cases."

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The comments came as the nation awaits a ruling on Roe v. Wade, and as the Jan. 6 House committee seeks information from Thomas' wife Ginni Thomas regarding communication about the 2020 election.

Sotomayor and Thomas' friendship is not unique among Supreme Court justices. The late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia have often been held up as a triumph of friendship over partisan politics.

Ginsburg said after Scalia's death that the two found common ground more often than most people realize, even as they jousted fiercely on hot-button constitutional cases.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas delivers a keynote speech during the dedication of the Nathan Deal Judicial Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Feb. 11, 2020.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas delivers a keynote speech during the dedication of the Nathan Deal Judicial Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

The comradery among the justices and their collective emphasis on apolitical friendship continues today.

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Amy Coney Barrett has said that in her personal experiences she does not let political differences stand in the way of friendships and cautioned against focusing too much on a person's political views.

"You know I have friends who disagree with me vehemently about all kinds of things, but I think that is dehumanizing if we reduce people to the political or policy differences that we might have with one another," she said.