Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has reportedly unleashed an attack on his critics for his violations of disclosure laws and alleged conflicts of interest. He warned law students that these critics are “undermining” the Court and endangering the country by weakening core institutions. As one of those critics, I am flabbergasted by Thomas’ remarks which show an implied disregard that seems to have now reached open contempt for certain principles of judicial ethics. There is not a hint of concern for his own conduct and how it has undermined the Supreme Court as an institution. For a prior column, click here
This weekend at a Federalist Society event, Thomas insisted that his wife Ginny is being attacked because she believes in the same thing as he does and that they “are focused on defending liberty.” That appears to be his defense for years of filing false disclosure forms that effectively hid hundreds of thousands of dollars of salary from conservative organizations.
When I first read these comments, it seemed that Thomas was just stuck on some Kübler-Ross process on denial and transference. However, it seems much more worrisome. Thomas clearly holds an imperial view of the Court. He has previously objected to those who would presume to criticize those in charge of their institutions. In these remarks, Thomas strikes a perfectly messianic note, warning the students that critics “seem bent on undermining” the Court. He added:
“You all are going to be, unfortunately, the recipients of the fallout from that – that there’s going to be a day when you need these institutions to be credible and to be fully functioning to protect your liberties . . . . And that’s long after I’m gone, and that could be either a short or a long time, but you’re younger, and it’s still going to be a necessity to protect the liberties that you enjoy now in this country.”
Frankly, it is a spin that borders on the delusional. Thomas and some of his colleagues are destroying a long tradition of neutrality of justices by pandering to their ideological base. Thomas magnified this damage by adding years of disclosure violations that withheld information that would have been relevant to his own alleged conflicts of interest. He clearly confuses the justices with the institution itself — treating himself as the personification of the rule of law. Ironically, this is precisely the problem that I have described in the advent of the celebrity justice.
What is even more distressing is that Thomas would choose this forum to address these complaints rather than answer the formal inquiries regarding his disclosure violations.
88 thoughts on “Thomas Condemns His Critics As Undermining The Supreme Court”
I believe it was President George H. W. Bush who nominated Clarence Thomas.
What can a Chief Justice do to stop Justice Thomas? I am not aware of any disciplinary measures that a chief justice can utilize.
One has to wonder if there were not some subconscious racial statement being made by Reagan to appoint such an unqualified Black man for the Supreme court, when there had to have been others with vastly better intellectual and moral qualifications.
Granted she was a Democrat but for intellectual capacity and a clean slate, Barbara Jordan comes quickly to mind.
How many laws and ethical breaches and conflicts does a justice have to have to cause the Chief Justice to begin to clean the nest that only he or an impeachment can clean?
I did see the Thurgood Marshall movie. I occur with your review!
From Think Progress (3/1/2011)
Why We Doubt Clarence Thomas
As the news outlet which originally broke the story that Justice Thomas unethically attended a Koch-sponsored political fundraiser, ThinkProgress is honored by Thomas’ suggestion that we have become so powerful that we are capable of undermining an entire branch of the federal government. Yet, if Thomas is really concerned that the Supreme Court’s legitimacy is being undermined, he should direct his criticism far closer to home:
Unethical Fundraising: The Code of Conduct for United States Judges forbids those judges from “personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose,” except in very limited circumstances that don’t apply to the Koch’s political fundraising sessions. Although the nine justices have exempted themselves from their binding legal obligation to follow these ethical rules, they have also long followed a policy of “look[ing] to the Code of Conduct for guidance” in determining when they may participate in fundraising activities. Thomas’ decision to thumb his nose at judicial ethics has already triggered a bill that would end the justices longstanding immunity to ethics laws.
Failure to Disclose: Federal judges and justices are required by law to disclose their spouse’s income — thus preventing persons who wish to influence the judge or justice from funneling money to them through their husband or wife. Nevertheless, Thomas falsely claimed that his wife — a lobbyist and high-earning member of the professional right — earned no non-investment income whatsoever while she was working at the right-wing Heritage Foundation. When asked to explain this error, Thomas — who is one of the nine people responsible for issuing binding interpretations of the nation’s founding document — claimed that he “misunderst[ood] the filing instructions.”
Potential Conflict of Interest: Ginni Thomas, Justice Thomas’ wife, used to lead an organization that vigorously opposes the Affordable Care Act, and she even briefly signed a memo calling that Act unconstitutional. Ginni also may be earning lobbying fees for working to have this Act repealed. A team of conservative lawyers recently argued that such activities by a judge’s spouse requires the judge to recuse from the lawsuits challenging the ACA, but Thomas’ defiant speech to the Federalist Society leaves little doubt that he will not recuse.
A Financial Stake in His Own Decisions?: Ginni Thomas may also be getting rich off of her husband’s vote in the infamous Citizens United decision — which freed corporations to spend billions of dollars to buy U.S. elections. Ginni’s new lobbying firm “offers advice on optimizing political investments for charitable giving in the non-profit world or political causes,” a line of work which has obviously become much more lucrative since Citizens United.
Discredited Understanding of the Constitution: Perhaps most disturbingly, Thomas embraces a discredited theory of the Constitution which would return America to a time when federal child labor laws were considered unconstitutional. Other cherished accomplishments that would likely cease to exist in Clarence Thomas’ America include “the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the sick leave portions of the Family and Medical Leave, the Freedom of Access to Clinics Act, as well as minimum wage and maximum hour laws.”
So the truth is that ThinkProgress and other Thomas doubters hardly deserve the credit he gives us for undermining the Court’s credibility. Justice Thomas is inflicting far greater wounds on the Court’s legitimacy than any of his critics could ever cause.
The man is a disgrace and mechanisms should be explored to remove him from the court.
This is merely the latest act in Justice Thomas’ continuing one-man show, “The Perpetual Victim as Supreme Court Justice.”
I don’t know if anyone caught the HBO movie, “Thurgood” last Thursday but if not, I highly recommend it. Laurence Fishburne’s (one of my favorite actors) portrayal does right by Justice Marshall.
“Justice” Thomas will never be of Justice Marshall’s caliber.
“He’s always responded to criticism with paranoid comments. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior—there’s nothing new here. Moreover, he’s always been a rank opportunist–a Black nationalist in college who suddenly became a conservative when it would advance his career.”
Rich has it right and there is no need for an analysis of the Thomas psyche. A look at his entire career shows the workings of a hack, who was willing to do the bidding of his “betters,” despite ethical considerations.
Clarence Thomas is a person who is out for himself, got his hands dirty but finally hit the “big time.” He is on the court simply as an ironic riposte by the pultocrats, using his color ironically to replace Thurgood Marshall, a Justice of great substance, with a lifetime of wondrous achievement, who irritated our rulers.
Justice Thomas will melt when the heat and spotlight is turned up. I hope the media stays on the case!
“That he feels compelled to speak out now means he feels vulnerable. Now it’s time to relentlessly dig him out.” (James L A)
Yes sir, you are once again, in my opinion, right on the money. Thomas’s character is not particularly strong and as such he is a constant whiner. The kitchen is always too hot for him and turning up the heat is an excellent tactic.
Although his value to the party is his vote on the Court, in all other areas he is a liability for them. It’s time to constantly showcase those liabilities by increasing and sustaining the heat until, like a poorly thrown piece of pottery, he cracks.
I just love Tea….Par…Tay….anyone….
I’ll participate in a discussion with you if you wish (although not to rehash old arguments). My comment was an honest attempt to communicate my understanding of your position (albeit in a provocative way) so if you would care to explain how I have misrepresented you, I will clarify my remarks, rebut your argument, or accept your explanation. If you don’t want to do that, it’s fine by me, but I am not unwilling to have a sincere dialogue.
thanks, but don’t get me wrong. I do believe that Justice Thomas is a disgrace to the Supreme Court, I just try to avoid the terminoology that It’s not Important used earlier. He is an enemy to justice no matter what individual is in front of him. Now, if you are talking about corporations, that is a different story! Time for dinner, yeah!
rafflaw: “It’s not Important, I would never call Justice Thomas what you called him.” (Uncle Tom)
Your a better person than I am, Gunga Din. The first people I heard referring to him thusly were civil rights lawyers that I knew. When he was the head of the EEOC he let about 7000 complaints lapse and moved away from class action suits to an individual model, thus weakening the system and the EEOC’s success rate.
He is a self-loathing black man and an enemy to minorities and justice. IMO a simple “Uncle Tom” is too good of a name for him.
I don’t believe you wish to have a sincere dialogue with me. When I earilier asked you to answer two simple questions before I responded to you, you simply refused to answer one altogether and gave a sort of half answer to the other. That doesn’t strike me as a sincere way to do things. So, carry on, but for the record you are misrepresenting or simply misunderstand what I’ve been saying.
So, judging from the general tone of your posts on this site, you think that when dealing with crazy people (who happen to control things like armies, nuclear weapons, and large segments of the economy…) the best course of action is to confront them, demand that they admit their crimes (which they are highly unlikely (due to their mental illness) to be able, let alone willing, to confess), and refuse any kind of compromise or accommodation with them (presumably until they’ve surrendered or otherwise lost the power they were abusing – at which point there is no need for any compromise or accommodation…). What effect do you expect this to have? It’s a good thing that you’re not in the mental health or diplomatic professions, but it’s still kind of scary that a clearly well educated person can give so little thought to the ramifications of their arguments… And if you’re afraid (I am, too) then maybe you should look at what sort of constructive action you could take instead of assuming that blind outrage and victimhood are the best course…
I don’t have much to add — the Professor got this one exactly right.
Justice Thomas, you are not the Supreme Court, sir. Just criticism of your conduct strengthens the institution.
Comments are closed.