• Clarence Thomas Takes One for the Court

    April 17, 2023

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Biden, Democracy, Other Ideas

    Did Clarence Thomas do anything wrong in accepting gifts from a wealthy Republican, or is Thomas the victim of years of pent-up anger at the Supreme Court by Democrats? Yes.

    According to an investigation by ProPublica, for more than 20 years Justice Thomas received lavish and expensive gifts, including trips on a private yacht and a private jet, from Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire and real estate developer with a long record of support for Republican politicians. Under the ethic regulations which guide Supreme Court justices, it is not clear that Thomas had to report any of this (Thomas says the guidance he received affirmed he did not need to report any of the gifts as his angel, Crow, had no business before the Court and the trips were “personal hospitality,” a gift from a friend.)

    ProPublica asserts that the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 required Thomas to report these gifts. This is most probably untrue. People do not report generally “personal hospitality,” such as Thomas’s vacations. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that the Judicial Conference issued new guidelines saying free trips and air travel must now be reported. This was announced as a change in policy, meaning disclosure was not required in the past but would be in the future. It is as simple as that: The rules did not require reporting of trips in the past, but going forward they do.

    So it appears while Thomas did not break the letter of these regulations, he certainly skirted the edge of what we’ll call propriety, the appearance of being on Harlan Crow’s extended payroll. For a guy who has lived so long in Democratic crosshairs it seemed an unwise thing for Thomas to do, even if legal. One theme of government ethics classes is you don’t have to demonstrate actual impropriety, you must avoid even the possible appearance of impropriety. Accepting lavish travel perks? Operating you own email server? Just not what regular Feds do, whether legal or not.

    Thomas’ long war with the Left started with his confirmation hearings in 1991 after his nomination by President George H.W. Bush. Anita Hill, who worked for Thomas at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thomas sexually harassed her during that time. Her testimony ignited a national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace and the treatment of women in the legal profession. It introduced many Americans to the vocabulary of pornography long before Bill Clinton soiled the waters (small world: Senator Joe Biden was the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversaw the confirmation process. Biden has faced criticism for his sexist handling of Hill’s testimony and for not allowing three other female witnesses to testify during the hearings.)

    As a jurist criticism of Thomas has focused on three points. Many liberals disagree with Justice Thomas’s conservative judicial philosophy, which emphasizes originalism and strict interpretation of the Constitution. They argue that this approach leads to narrow interpretations of individual rights and protections, particularly for marginalized groups. Similarly, liberals criticize Justice Thomas for his opposition to affirmative action and other civil rights policies. They argue that his views on these issues are harmful to communities of color. Lastly, Thomas is known for being one of the least vocal members of the Supreme Court, rarely asking questions during oral arguments or engaging in public discourse about his opinions. Some liberals argue that this lack of engagement is problematic and makes it difficult to understand his reasoning on key issues. There are accusations he often has made up his mind along ideological lines before even hearing a case.

    Thomas has more recently become a lightening rod for everything Democrats have come to hate about the Supreme Court, as the Court shifted rightward and decisions like Roe v. Wade went against standard liberal thinking. They see Thomas’ “corruption” as emblematic of the Court’s outsize power due to lifetime appointments, isolation from traditional Constitutional checks and balances, and virtual immunity from public pressure, making it a magnet for corruption and influence-peddling. They see Harlan Crow as having purchased direct access to one of the most influential and powerful men in America and argue that while Crow may not have a specific issue in front of the Court, he holds a generic interest in right wing causes and thus has bought himself a sympathetic judge for his broader Conservative agenda.

    Things only got worse when it was discovered that Thomas’ spouse Ginni donated to Republican causes and sent texts cheering on the protests of January 6. A woman with political thoughts of her own! Nonetheless, Thomas is a man with a target on his back.

    The only real check and balance on Supreme Court justices is formal impeachment and removal from the bench, so it not surprising at the first sign of impropriety Democrats like AOC have immediately called for Thomas to be impeached. It won’t happen; the standards for impeachment are high, whether what Thomas did actually qualifies is far from clear, and a partisan Congress will never go along. Only one Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached, Samuel Chase, in 1804 for alleged political bias in his judicial conduct. The Senate held a trial, but ultimately acquitted Chase of all charges. No other Supreme Court justice has been impeached since then. Justice Abe Fortas did resign over 50 years ago over money issues, ahead of a likely try at impeachment.

    Some have already gone further than the expected calls for hearings and investigations. The New Republic writes “The Democrats need to destroy Clarence Thomas’s reputation. They’ll never successfully impeach him. But so what? Make him a metaphor for every insidious thing the far right has done to this country.” The magazine went on to call him the “single worst Supreme Court justice of all time. Clarence Thomas is an embarrassment to the Supreme Court and the country, and the worship of this man on the right is one of the greatest symbols of their contempt for standards, the law, precedent, and democracy.”

    The hyperbole gives it away — all of this is another tempest to fill in the dead space between Orange Man Bad stories. Thomas should not be proud of his actions, but nor should he face impeachment, never mind some sort of public drawing and quartering of his reputation, over what he did. Clarence Thomas is taking one for the Court.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “The only real check and balance on Supreme Court justices is formal impeachment and removal from the bench,..”

      Yeah, that ain’t happening. The Men in Black, the highest court in the land, should be held to the highest standards. They should all be required to undergo annual lie detector tests. Of course, most will refuse, just as Clarence the Sex crazed porn addict refused in his Anita Hill sexual harassment ordeal.

      And if they refuse, then their terms should be aborted.

      04/18/23 6:16 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      The damage to Clarence’s unimpeachable character has caused Fox Just Kidding News to settle the Dominion lawsuit because it couldn’t count on Clarence being the swinger vote if its free speech -lies- case made it to the Men in Black. Wonder how many gifts Rupert gave to Clarence or to other members of the MIB. So Clarence’s greed ruined it for the others. What use is it to be a judge if you can’t take bribes?

      04/18/23 6:17 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Really PVB- no one should care about Clarence Thomas or the Supreme Court. He’s a clown which means he fits in wonderfully into our “diverse” court- of total fools. Evidently Thomas was puzzled whether he should check a box on his tax forms marked: Did your spouse make any money and if so how much? I think the word spouse confused him. He now has Ketanji to consult about such baffling words but since she can’t define the term woman I think the term spouse would leave her gobsmacked. We suckered Putin into Ukraine but he could easily sucker us into a civil war in Sudan. Just send a few special ops guys there to attack a US diplomatic convoy and….”We’re off to war we go- heigh ho heigh ho!” American sheeple are giddy when our brawny “boys” are tasked to travel to some dusty 4th rate country to kick some ass just to show that you don’t mess with Amurika.

      04/19/23 2:12 PM | Comment Link

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