Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas filed a disclosure form on Aug. 31 detailing previously undisclosed gifts from his friend, GOP donor and billionaire Harlan Crow, as Democrats in Congress continue to criticize alleged ethical shortcomings at the nation’s highest court.
The nine-page form (pdf), which was filed with the Committee on Financial Disclosure of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, covers the year 2022. The form was due in May 2023, but the justice received a filing extension.
Justice Thomas’s attorney, Elliot Berke, said in a statement that his client “has always strived for full transparency and adherence to the law.”
Mr. Berke also alluded to ethics complaints that have been lodged against his client by what he characterized as “left wing” organizations.
“We look forward to answering any additional questions or addressing any remaining issues.”
In the form, Justice Thomas indicates that Mr. Crow paid for private jet trips that the justice used last year to attend an event in Texas and to vacation at his friend’s New York estate.
The new information comes as Justice Thomas has been under heavy fire from Democrats who accuse him of skirting disclosure rules, of corruption in general, and of being too cozy with wealthy Republicans. They have been unable, however, to point to any specific court cases in which the justice has misbehaved. At the same time, public opinion polls suggest public trust of the Supreme Court has fallen to new lows.
Democrats have been demanding that the Supreme Court adopt a code of ethics after the revelation of several alleged ethical lapses committed by conservative members of the court, particularly Justice Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito. Some officeholders and activists say Justice Thomas should be impeached and removed from office.
Democrats are angry that Mr. Crow gave Justice Thomas luxurious vacations, tuition support for a grandnephew he raised, and purchased low-dollar real estate from the justice’s family. Justice Thomas didn’t previously disclose the events, saying he was advised that it wasn’t required, but vowed to disclose such events going forward.
Democrats have also been pushing the proposed Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act (SCERT) of 2023 (S.359), which was introduced in February by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Whitehouse’s bill would direct the Supreme Court to issue a code of conduct governing its own members. It would also create a system allowing members of the public to file complaints against justices for violating the code of conduct or for engaging “in conduct that undermines the integrity of the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly approved the bill on July 20 on a party-line vote. Republicans oppose the legislation, which they say is unconstitutional.
In the “reimbursements” section of the form, Justice Thomas indicated he accepted transportation after serving in February 2022 as a keynote speaker at an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference in Dallas, Texas. He was provided a return flight only and meals. The return flight was “due to an unexpected ice storm,” he wrote.
The justice attended a second AEI conference in Dallas in May 2022. Transportation and meals were provided, he wrote.
Justice Thomas wrote that he was provided with transportation, meals, and lodging in connection with a speaking slot in March 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah, at an event held by the Hatch Center.
He also wrote that he accepted transportation, meals, and lodging from Mr. Crow in July 2022 at a property in Keese Mill, New York.
Justice Thomas also disclosed that he took flights in May 2022 “because of the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak.” He was referring to the leak of the draft majority opinion in the major case that led to the reversal of Roe v. Wade in June of that year. News of the leak led to raucous protests at the homes of conservative justices and to heightened security measures at the Supreme Court building in Washington.
The justice indicated his security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible because of the leak.
He provided new information that was “inadvertently omitted” from past forms, including Mr. Crow’s purchase of some real estate from the Thomas family in 2014.
In addition to disclosing information about investments, he also provided information on bank accounts and life insurance that he wrote was previously “inadvertently omitted” from disclosure forms.
At the same time, Justice Alito also filed a disclosure form.
Justice Alito reported that he earned $29,250 from teaching at three law schools.
He wrote that he received lodging and meals from Duke Law School in May 2022 for teaching a Master of Laws program. He also wrote that he received transportation, lodging, and meals from Notre Dame Law School in July 2022 for a summit held in Rome, Italy.
Mr. Whitehouse seemed unimpressed by the new disclosures.
“This late-come effort at ‘Clean-up on Aisle Three’ won’t deter us from fully investigating the massive, secret, right-wing billionaire influence in which this Court is enmired,” said the senator, who is chairman of a Senate Judiciary Committee panel that oversees court ethics.
From The Epoch Times