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  • Writer's pictureShane Masterson

Questions Fly About Clarence Thomas’ Future on the Court as Scandals Surface



By: Shane Masterson June 19, 2023

 

Clarence Thomas has, historically, never been a man of many words. Going ten years without a single question during oral argumentation at the bench of the Supreme Court, the seasoned Justice has developed a distinct profile of uncertainty around his actions and decisions. One of six conservatives currently serving on the Court, Thomas plays a monumental role in the political ambitions of his ideological counterparts – he’s a crucial vote on the Court that has locked in a multitude of Republican victories.

He is now the source of much scrutiny after recently-uncovered scandals, compounding on past mishaps that are being brought back into light. A bombshell ProPublica report revealed a specific case involving major Republican donor Harlan Crow and his close friendship with Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni over the years, resulting in the Thomases receiving luxury trips, vacations, and private jet transport. This is a relationship that Thomas had failed to ever disclose on federal documentation. The Justice traveled on Crow-funded transport at least six times, as well as regularly staying at Crow’s luxury Adirondacks resort.

A subsequent report then exposed Thomas’ business dealings with Crow’s real estate ventures, including a sale of Thomas’ family home that underwent remodeling and repairs after Crow’s purchase. The report also revealed that Crow has donated upwards of $120,000 to a conservative organization headed up by Ginni Thomas, and that Thomas incorrectly disclosed multiple streams of income repeatedly over the years.

The Ethics in Governments Act compels federal judges — including Supreme Court Justices — to disclose gifts or transactions that exceed $1,000. That includes transportation and real estate, the two sectors that Thomas was involved in; ProPublica cites the “extent and frequency” of Crow and Thomas’ actions as points that cloud his legitimacy. The extent of Thomas’ violations has prompted influential voices to take strong stances on his future in the Court; while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for his impeachment and removal from the court, and Democratic lawmakers have called for an inquiry, it seems possible that this incident falls by the wayside of litigation and oversight as is common for Court wrongdoings. The unique nature of the Court as the arbiter of Constitutional interpretation makes it a tricky body of government to oversee and hold accountable. The lack of specific ethics laws outside of those aforementioned make it difficult to assign specific recourse to specific actions.

Legitimacy concerns have also taken center stage in the aftermath of Thomas’ troubles. Confidence in the Court is already low — Gallup’s polls from last September indicate that trust is at 47%, down from 67% in 2020 — and new revelations of this degree certainly won’t help. Thomas has gone into damage control after the two reports, putting out statements that state his commitment to ethics and how he plans to improve his current record. But at the end of the day, the point stands — this man of few words will have a lot of convincing left to do in order to prove that he deserves his spot on the Court, or at least that he isn’t actively harming its credibility.


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