U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued his first public statement since coming under fire again from U.S. judicial officials and lawmakers following a ProPublica investigation finding that justice conservative has accepted luxury trips from a prominent Republican donor for more than two decades.
In his April 7 response, Judge Thomas called Texas-based developer Harlan Crow — an influential GOP donor who has backed right-wing candidates, causes and legal efforts — one of his “dearest friends.” .
“As friends, we joined [Mr Crow and his wife] on a number of family trips in the more than a quarter of a century we have known them,” according to his statement.
“Early in my tenure on the Court, I sought advice from my colleagues and other members of the judiciary, and I was told that this type of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who had no cases before the Court, was not to be reported,” he said. declared.
Judge Thomas added that he had “sought to follow that advice” during his lifetime tenure as one of nine justices on the nation’s highest court.
ProPublica reports revealed that Justice has accepted trips to Indonesia and New Zealand aboard Mr Crow’s superyacht, flies regularly on his private jet and joins annual summer trips to his beach resort in the Adirondacks — trips that would otherwise cost tens of thousands of dollars but don’t appear anywhere on his financial statements.
Ethics law experts say the absence of such trips from these disclosure forms likely violates federal law.
Federal law requires judges to file annual financial statements, including outside income and the income of their spouses; judges are prohibited from accepting gifts from anyone with business in court, but until recently the definition of “personal hospitality” was not clearly defined.
Judge Thomas noted recently revised rules adopted by a Judicial Conference committee to clarify some of these reports.
“And, of course, I intend to follow this advice in the future,” he said.
A statement from Mr Crow did not deny that he had extended ‘hospitality’ to Judge Thomas and his wife Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas ‘over the years’ after becoming friends in 1996, but he said that their time together was “no different from the hospitality we extended to our many other dear friends.
Following the report, progressive members of Congress, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, renewed their demands for the impeachment of Judge Thomas, who has come under scrutiny for other apparent gifts and allegations of conflicts of interest with investigations in January. 6 and Donald Trump.
Following a report from The Los Angeles Times in 2004, revealing that Judge Thomas had accepted expensive gifts and private jet travel from Mr Crow, he appeared to stop reporting them altogether.
Since 2004, Judge Thomas has reported only two gifts: an award from Yale Law School and a bust of Frederick Douglass, given to him by Mr Crow.
Democratic lawmakers have also called for urgent ethics legislation and codes of conduct for Supreme Court justices to adhere to. District and appellate court judges are bound by a code of judicial ethics, but judges of the highest court in the land are not.
Civil rights groups, left-leaning court reform organizations and ethics watchdogs have also demanded congressional investigations into the Supreme Court and its ties to powerful donors and special interests.