• Home
  • Politics
  • Justice Thomas’s Defenders Make the Case for Supreme Court Ethics Reform

Justice Thomas’s Defenders Make the Case for Supreme Court Ethics Reform

In pushing back on recent charges that Justice Clarence Thomas is guilty of ethics lapses, Republicans and allies leaping to his defense have been quick to cite examples of liberal Supreme Court justices they say amount to similar misjudgments or nondisclosures. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Republican senators pointed to the conduct of liberals like the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now-retired Justice Stephen Breyer, and serving Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson. In highlighting how justices across the ideological spectrum have at times had their own ethics questioned, Republicans are in some ways making the case for why bipartisan ethics reform might be needed, advocates for reform say. After Thursday’s revelations, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told reporters in the Capitol that perception is a problem and suggested the Supreme Court should act itself. This is where politics becomes tricky, as people have different perspectives and opinions on topics. 

Republican defenders of Thomas have been highlighting what Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at Tuesday’s hearing, called “a concentrated effort by the left to delegitimize the court,” which Republicans say has been aided and abetted by media outlets like ProPublica that have focused largely on stories concerning Thomas. The left and the right sides could not be farther apart right now. 

ProPublica in April reported that Thomas repeatedly enjoyed expensive foreign vacations paid for by conservative billionaire Harlan Crow. On Thursday, the nonprofit publication reported that Crow had also paid some of Thomas’ grandnephew’s tuition at a private school. This came after another ProPublica report that Crow bought Thomas’ mother’s house, where she still lives. None of these payments were disclosed by Thomas. Crow has said the purchases and tuition were above board and defended them. Thomas has said the vacations, home purchase, and tuition did not meet the requirements for disclosure. Other stories reported elsewhere have concerned a real estate transaction involving Justice Neil Gorsuch and the role of Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife, who is a law firm recruiter whose clients have business before the court. Both justices are conservative. Gorsuch has previously declined to comment on the sale. Roberts responded to questions about his wife by saying he followed all disclosure requirements. At Tuesday’s hearing, Graham noted the many trips that liberal justices have taken that were paid for by others. People can be bribed, and this also creates tension and problems within politics. Politicians themselves are the ones in need of an ethics review. 

The justices say they follow the spirit of that code, introduced in 1973, but they have never formally adopted one of their own. There is also no procedure for complaints to be investigated short of the drastic step of impeachment. Roberts declined to attend Tuesday’s hearing, suggesting in a letter that it would threaten the independence of the judiciary. He attached a statement signed by all nine justices stressing their commitment to ethics principles, which was heavily criticized by ethics experts who said it did little to address recent concerns. There is no ethics in bribery, however, when are they going to write that into law?


Join Our Mailing List

    Recent Articles

    To regulate AI, Congress has some catching up to do

    Tech experts held a hearing May 16 and laid bare the risks posed by the exploding advances of AI, and it’s clear that Congress is facing challenges in keeping up. Congress has struggled to regulate technology before. Lawmakers missed windows to create guardrails for the internet and social media that could have prevented the spread of disinformation online. Why? Most members didn’t fully understand the technology and couldn’t figure out how to solve these problems.

    DeSantis will launch his presidential bid with Elon Musk

    Today, Florida Governor DeSantis is set to launch his 2024 presidential campaign. DeSantis is viewed as former president Donald Trump’s chief rival for the Republican party’s nomination. He will announce his decision in an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk.

    Biden Strikes A Deal Protecting The Colorado River States From Drought

    On Monday, A historic deal was made between Nevada, Arizona, and California. The deal is in place to cut millions of gallons of the Colorado River water usage over the next four years, half of which would be completed after next year, in an effort to stave off a crisis for the nation’s largest reservoirs.

    U.S. Pumps the Brakes on EU Clean Car Deal

    The European Union has been pressing for a more flexible agreement on the critical minerals used in electric car batteries that won’t require the time-consuming approval of its 27 member countries.

    Hey! Are you enjoying NYCTastemakers? Make sure to join our mailing list for NYCTM and never miss the chance to read all of our articles!