One day in the early 1990s, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas telephoned Leah Ward Sears to introduce himself. She was a rising star in Georgia's legal community, a relatively liberal black woman on the state's conservative Supreme Court. Thomas had read about political attacks against Sears and called to say he didn't like it.
"It affected her that he would take the time to comfort her in that situation," said Bernard Taylor, an Atlanta lawyer and longtime friend of Sears, now chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and a potential nominee to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. "They're still friends."