By an unusually narrow U.S. Senate confirmation vote of 52-48, Clarence Thomas became a U.S. Supreme Court justice on October 23, 1991.
During his over three-decade tenure on the nation’s highest court, Justice Thomas has accumulated more personal, legal, and political controversies than any modern-day Supreme Court justice.
In an April 6, 2023, Biography article, Colin McEvoy chronicled some of those controversies:
- The Anita Hill Allegations: Lawyer and law professor Anita Hill alleged during Thomas’ confirmation hearings that the justice sexually harassed her with repeated, unwanted sexual advances and lewd comments when they were employed with two federal governmental agencies.
- Failure to Report Wife’s Income: Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, is a well-known right-wing political conspiracy theorist who was one of the leaders in the “insurrection movement” to overthrow the legitimate 2020 election of Joe Biden as President of the United States. In 2011, Justice Thomas failed to report $686,000 in income his wife made between 2003-2007 while employed with the conservative right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation.
- Calls for Affordable Care Act Recusal: Ginni Thomas, in 2009, formed a Tea Party Movement political advocacy group called Liberty Central to fight for the repeal of President Barak Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Justice Thomas refused to heed numerous calls for his recusal from any cases dealing with the Act that came before the court and cast one of the four dissenting votes in 2012 that said the Act was unconstitutional.
- The Moira Smith Allegations: In 2016, attorney Moira Smith alleged that Justice Thomas sexually groped her at a 1999 dinner party. Thomas called the allegations “preposterous.” Smith detailed her allegations in a September 2018 Anchorage Times op-ed.
- Thomas’ Election Fraud Cover-Up Vote: Thomas’ wife participated in an unlawful insurrection attempt to undermine the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s election in 2020. Thomas cast the lone dissenting vote in a case seeking disclosure of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ official emails that contained a trove of Ginni Thomas’ emails seeking to undo Biden’s election.
Then exploded the April 6, 2023, explosive investigative findings by ProPublica that Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni, have accepted luxury gifts and $500,000 vacation trips paid for by a Dallas real-estate magnate and mega Republican donor Harlan Crow. Thomas did not report these world tour-vacations on Crow’s private jet and yacht to luxurious spots in the U.S. and around the world, which spanned two decades.
Crow has pushed back on the reports, saying that he has been longstanding friends with the Thomases and that the trips and vacations were nothing more than family outings. The billionaire said the “family friends” never discussed pending Supreme Court or lower court cases.
What is not said in the billionaire’s pushback is that Thomas and his wife Ginni mixed with influential Republican donors and conservative group leaders during these “social gatherings”—many of whom had or supported political issues that found their way to the high court. Crow denied any personal knowledge about any personal discussions that the Thomases may have had with others at these gatherings.
Given Ginni Thomas’ unhinged belief in and support for lunatic political conspiracy theories and Justice Thomas’ loose disregard for the truth, a reasonable possibility exists that improper, unethical dicussions were had at these social/family gatherings.
Put another way, it creates a serious “appearance of impropriety” that an outspoken conservative justice, joined by his right-wing political activist wife, would accept gifts (a $19,000 Fredrick Douglas bible, for example), vacation trips (a summer trip to Indonesia), tours (to exclusive beaches and national parks), and all expense paid social gatherings from a politically conservative billionaire that supports conservative political issues that will inevitably be heard in court by the Supreme Court.
While U.S. Supreme Court justices are not bound by any code of conduct or ethical requirements, the Code of Conduct for every other federal judge in the U.S. instructs that a federal “judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. This prohibition applies to both professional and personal conduct. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and accept freely and willingly restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.”
Every lower court federal judge in the U.S. would be barred from engaging in the kind of behavior Justice Thomas engaged in with Harlan Crow and his wealthy political associates.
While Justice Thomas may not be bound by the ethical restrictions other federal judges are held to, the conservative justice should immediately resign from the court or, at a minimum, recuse himself from all cases coming before the court that involve political issues of concern to his well-heeled friends.
If the justice refuses to accept either alternative, then the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee should open a full-scale investigation to chronicle for the public record Thomas’s long history of improper conduct while on the high court.
Justice Thomas has embarrassed the Supreme Court and undermined every court decision in which he has voted to extend a governmental benefit to a politically conservative cause.
The integrity of the Supreme Court is at stake.