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Verna Thornton

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Verna Thornton
Portrayed by Debra Mooney
Deceased Character
Biographical Information
Status: Deceased
Born: 1947[1]
Hair color: White (wig)
Episode of Death: Nobody Like Babies
Cause of Death: Liver Cancer (official cause)
Suffocated by
President Fitzgerald Grant
Current Occupation/s:
  • Supreme Court Justice
Character Information
Portrayed by: Debra Mooney
First appearance: The Other Woman
Final appearance: Nobody Like Babies
Appearance Count: 10

I was the one that sent that woman to assassinate you. ... You are not the president!

— Verna to President Fitzgerald Grant, Nobody Likes Babies

Verna Thornton was a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States (aka: SCOTUS) in the second season of ABC's Scandal. She was an antagonist.


The character of Verna Thornton was a supporting character for the first half (episodes 1-13) of the second season. After her death she was only "mentioned." She was rumored to return for season three, but did not.


With Huck's assistance, Verna helped Olivia Pope assist with Lindsay Dwyer's escape from California after Hollis Doyle and Becky Flynn set her up to take the fall for the explosion of her boyfriend, Jesse Tyler, and six of his co-workers. (Defiance / Truth or Consequences)

More than two years later, when Quinn Perkins was on trial for those seven murders and was facing the death penalty, Olivia Pope & Associates concluded that the jury was going to come to a unanimous decision to find Quinn guilty. In a stunning turn, the federal judge granted the defense's motion for acquittal, an extremely rare decision that even Harrison Wright found impossible. It was later revealed that this occurred because Olivia called in a favor with Verna, who then asked the presiding judge to grant the defense's motion for acquittal. (White Hat's Off)

A couple of weeks later Olivia met with - now client - Verna. Verna expressed her concerns about Quinn being able to take down the entire administration. Olivia assured her that there was nothing to worry about. (The Other Woman)

While Verna was receiving her chemotherapy treatments under the name "Olivia Pope" the "real" Olivia Pope came to visit her in the hospital out of concern. Verna reminded Olivia of some of the lessons she taught her. And even though Olivia's office was extremely busy with clients Olivia still stayed to sit with her good friend and also to come to her rescue when she was admitted to the hospital after feeling faint. (Beltway Unbuckled / All Roads Lead to Fitz)

Verna was a part of the Grant campaign, as well as one of the conspirators in the Defiance Conspiracy. Her deal in being part of the conspiracy was that she would be President Grant's first nomination when a position on the Supreme Court came up. However, President Grant wasn't aware of the deal, instead offering Sally Langston the opportunity to put together a list of nominees for the Justice slot when she signed on to be his pick for Vice President. However, Olivia and Cyrus would go on to smear the good name of Langston's candidate, ensuring Verna's naming to the nation's top court. (Happy Birthday, Mr. President / A Criminal, A Whore, An Idiot, and A Liar)

After the shooting of President Grant, during the interim presidency of Sally Langston, Hollis Doyle released some sensitive information about Verna to Langston: Verna's terminal cancer. Acting President Langston visited Verna in her hospital room and blackmailed her into giving up her seat on the Supreme Court. Sally was adamant about acquiring that seat, since it was initially supposed to be hers to give up during a liberal presidency. Sally threatened to release information to the press if she didn't step down. Verna consulted Olivia, who advised her to step down. However, instead of caving, Verna betrayed Olivia by giving up Huck as the man who attempted to assassinate the President instead of handing in her resignation, ensuring that she kept her seat. (Blown Away)

Not long after Verna officially died from complications of liver cancer but her death was caused by none other than the President of the United States, Fitz Grant. He suffocated her after learning the truth about how he got elected; about those involved - specifically Olivia - after learning about Defiance. (Nobody Likes Babies)


Olivia Pope

Verna Thornton was another one of Olivia's mentors. One of the lessons that we know Verna has told Olivia is "to never ever turn off your cell phone." Olivia was there for Verna to help not only professionally (as a "fixer") but personally as well. Verna was one of Olivia's clients; she was helping her keep her terminal cancer from the public, and Olivia would sit with Verna during her chemotherapy treatments. (The Other Woman / Beltway Unbuckled)

Their relationship ended badly; while Verna was on her deathbed, Olivia realized that she ordered the assassination attempt of President Fitzgerald Grant and confronted her. Furious, Olivia realized her decision to use Becky to try and assassinate the President was so that when she died, Verna's name would be spoken "with respect and honour." Verna acknowledged that she committed the crime, but knew Olivia would never admit to election rigging. "Chin up, Olivia," she said, as her last words to her former mentee. "Not like I'm getting away with it."(Nobody Likes Babies)





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