Influential Democratic congressmen demanded changes in the Supreme Court of Justice after it was revealed the luxury trips that Judge Clarence Thomas received from a real estate magnate, close to the Republican Party. In addition, they called for immediate investigations and vowed to continue demanding stricter ethics rules for the High Court.
An “enforceable code of conduct” is what the Senate Judiciary Committee calls for Supreme Court justices. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who chairs the body, said that for many years they have called for the creation of codified ethics rules that would prohibit behavior like that of Judge Thomas.
On Thursday, April 6, the nonprofit investigative journalism organization, ‘ProPublica’revealed that for more than 20 years Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted trips from a Dallas billionaire, Harlan Crow.
The report reveals that Thomas would have vacationed on Crow’s yachts around the world.. Also, that he allegedly flew on his jet and that he typically spends at least a week each summer at the mogul’s private resort in the Adirondacks, in northeastern New York state.
For decades, Justice Clarence Thomas has secretly accepted luxury trips from a major Republican donor, newly obtained documents and interviews show.
The extent and frequency of these apparent gifts to Thomas has no known precedent in modern SCOTUS history… 🧵👇 pic.twitter.com/ROuGuyD6r6
— ProPublica (@propublica) April 6, 2023
The trips were not reported to the authorities by the judge and violate the law that requires magistrates and other federal officials to disclose most of the gifts they receive.
The Supreme Court did not immediately respond to the lawmakers’ request.
For his part, Thomas has not answered questions from ‘ProPublica’ about the trips, while Crow told the journalism organization that the judge “never asked for anything” and that the times they traveled together did not provide ” a different kind of hospitality” than that given to “many other dear friends”.
“Nor have we ever tried to influence Judge Thomas on any kind of legal or political matter,” the billionaire added to defend himself against the accusations.
This Friday, Thomas stated that he was not required to disclose travel information. and argued that he was told by his senior colleagues on the Supreme Court and other judiciaries that “this kind of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who have no business with the Court, was not something to be denounced.”
“As friends, (my wife and I) have joined them on a series of family trips over the more than quarter century that we have known them,” Thomas said in a statement.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said he was advised that he did not have to disclose luxury trips paid for by GOP megadonor Harlan Crow because Crow and his wife are “personal friends,” he said in his first statement on the issue Friday, amid calls for his impeachment. pic.twitter.com/5wkbaQ2Xdr
— Forbes (@Forbes) April 7, 2023
Under US law, High Court justices must share an annual financial report, listing the gifts they have received.
However, up to this point, ethics experts have delivered conflicting views on whether or not Judge Thomas was required to disclose the details of his travels over the past two decades.
For Rafael Peñalver, a US political analyst and constitutional lawyer, the Supreme Court only works for its own prestige.
“The powers of the Court are not even enumerated by the Constitution and it is not required to have a code of ethics (…) But even if there is no direct regulation, there is a violation of the trust that the American people place in the judges of the Supreme Court”, he sentenced for France 24.
He Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollenhe said in a release that Americans’ trust in the Supreme Court is “undermining because of this kind of conduct.”
While the legislator in the Rhode Island Senate, Sheldon Whitehouse, ruled that the Supreme Court “has lost its ethical compass.” He added: “No wonder the American people are losing faith in the idea that they can get a fair deal before the highest court in the nation, when they see a Supreme Court justice blatantly disobeying the basic rules of disclosure to talk to billionaires in secret.
For Peñalver, it is still early to give final verdicts. “HWe have to check if there was actually some kind of violation (by Thomas),” he argues.
“Specifically, the judges of the Supreme Court should not declare if they stay at friends’ houses or if they are invited to lunch and since it is an independent branch of the US Government, the other two branches cannot impose conditions on the Supreme Court, because it will governs itself”, explains the expert.
Just in March, the federal judiciary strengthened disclosure requirements for all judges.. However, in the new regulations, personal vacation homes owned by friends or close acquaintances remain exempt from making public.
Questions about Thomas’ ethics were raised last year when it was revealed that he did not walk away from election cases after the 2020 election, despite the fact that his wife, a conservative activist, reached out to lawmakers and the House. White from Trump to urge to challenge the results of the elections.
With Reuters, AP and local media