Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) has joined the call for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign due to the communications of his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, with lawyer John Eastman supporting the certification challenge. It is still unclear what that email contains, but Ginni Thomas was a vocal supporter for former President Donald Trump in both public and private. Pascrell called Thomas “a corrupt jurist” and said that he could not be considered “neutral” given the fact that his wife is a political activist. Pascrell’s demand comes after Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse called for an investigation into the matter. The demand is entirely without legal or ethical merit absent new evidence that Justice Thomas himself engaged in political advocacy while ruling on related cases.
Rep. IIhan Omar (D., Minn.) was the first member of Congress to call for Thomas to be impeached when it was revealed that the Jan. 6th Commission found 29 messages of his wife, Ginni, to the White House. MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan echoed the call for impeachment as did former Sen. Barbara Boxer and others. Boxer was particularly ironic since she used the same underlying federal law to challenge the certification of George W. Bush’s election, which was central in former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
As previously noted, the position of Ginni Thomas on the election was no surprise. She is a well-known Republican activist and Trump supporter. In her communications, Thomas encouraged then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to pursue legal and legislative challenges to what she viewed as a stolen election. That was a position supported by millions of voters.
We have come a long way from the days when spouses were viewed as mere extensions of their husbands. Ginni Thomas is an activist and the couple has often discussed how they keep their professional lives apart. Yet, these members are suggesting that Justice Thomas can be investigated or impeached because he essentially failed to keep his wife in line and silent on this national controversy.
Pascrell declared “Clarence and Ginni Thomas have participated in one of the worst breaches of trust ever seen in our court system. Clarence Thomas cannot possibly be seen as a neutral actor but instead as a corrupt jurist who has poisoned the High Court. Clarence Thomas should have dignity and final respect for our democracy and resign.”
The attack on Justice Thomas is grossly unfair and untrue. There was no breach of trust in our court system due to these challenges. The court system functioned exactly as it was intended. So did the other two branches. The high court has handed down at least 10 rulings on the 2020 election In January, Justice Thomas was notably the only dissenting justice. Being a minority of one does not make you corrupt. It is a position that virtually every justice has held at some point on the Court.
Justice Thomas did not write the email to Eastman. It was his wife who has a separate career. Justices are not expected to silence their spouses on political matters or associations. Nor are spouses expected to place their career or views on hold due to their husband or wife sitting on the Court.
Indeed, even justices have been accused of crossing the line on occasion. This includes justices on the left of the Court. I recently criticized Justice Sonia Sotomayor for encouraging law students to oppose new abortion laws. The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also drew such criticism. Despite repeated controversies in speaking publicly on political issues, Ginsburg was undeterred. Ginsburg continued such speeches in discussing issues like the ERA to the joy of liberals. Shortly before that, Ginsburg again repeated her view that sexist voters prevented Hillary Clinton from being elected president — a repeat of controversial comments in her 2017 speech. Again, the comments thrilled liberals. As in her 2017 speech, Ginsburg again repeated her view that sexist voters prevented Hillary Clinton from being elected president.
Justice Ginsburg started another firestorm over public comments on how she would move to New Zealand if Donald Trump was elected. Ginsburg apologized for that public controversy, though I discussed in a column how the incident spoke to a much larger problem on the Court.
These were political statements as opposed to direct involvement in advocacy. In this case, it is not Justice Thomas but his wife who was expressing support for certification and election challenges.
It is not clear if Pascrell has access to emails not seen by other members or the public. We know that Thomas texted with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the aftermath of the presidential election to encourage the White House to fight the certification. She said on Thursday “I look forward to talking to them,” adding, “I can’t wait to clear up misconceptions.”
Pascrell has long sought retaliatory actions against those who hold a different view on the 2020 election. He previously called for the disqualification of 120 House Republicans — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — for simply signing a “Friend of the Court brief” (or amicus brief) in support of an election challenge from Texas.
The attack on Justice Thomas for the advocacy of his wife is a race to the bottom by some Democrats. The Thomas’ have not received support from most law professors or legal experts in the media. Likewise, liberal feminist groups are silent in defense of a woman who maintains a separate career in Washington. Nevertheless, this attack is inflammatory and wrong. It does a disservice to the Court and the country in fueling a national rage addiction that is tearing us apart.