Hold Justice Thomas Ethically Accountable


Here’s a copy of the letter I sent to Rep. Mark Amodei this morning:

One of the bedrock principles of our democracy is that nobody is above the law — not even Supreme Court justices like Clarence Thomas.

Justice Thomas, among other things, has flouted the law for years by failing to disclose his wife’s substantial income despite being legally required to report it. That’s why U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter has demanded that the Judicial Conference, an administrative arm of the court, uphold the Ethics in Government Act by referring Thomas’ apparent misdeeds to the Attorney General for further investigation.

Rep. Slaughter has also written a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is the presiding officer of the Judicial Conference, about this, and she has invited Americans to add their voice by co-signing that letter (which you can read below).

Dear Mr. Chief Justice:
We write you today in your capacity as Presiding Officer of the Judicial Conference. We call your attention to the letter sent to the Conference by members of the House of Representatives on September 29, 2011, requesting an investigation of possible violations by Justice Clarence Thomas of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.

Evidence that Justice Thomas failed for 13 years to accurately disclose his wife’s employment has been submitted to the Conference and we believe the Conference is required by law to refer the matter to the Department of Justice for further investigation.

In January, Common Cause and Alliance for Justice alerted the Judicial Conference to Justice Thomas’s repeated failure to make accurate financial disclosures as required under the Ethics Act. Justice Thomas then amended 21 years of his financial disclosure forms, explaining that he had, “misunderstood the reporting instructions.”

Since we sent our September 29 letter, important new information concerning this matter has come to our attention. Disclosure forms obtained by Common Cause and Alliance for Justice show that Justice Thomas accurately filed his financial disclosure forms, including his wife’s employment, for as many as 10 years beginning in 1987 when he was Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Justice Thomas continued to file accurate disclosure forms concerning his wife’s employment when he was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He also accurately filed his financial disclosure forms regarding his wife’s employment for the first five years he was a Justice of the Supreme Court.

In 1997 however, Justice Thomas stopped disclosing his wife’s employment on his annual form, instead marking the box labeled “NONE,” to indicate his wife had no employment that year. Other public documents show that Justice Thomas’s wife was employed in 1997 by the Office of the U.S. House Majority Leader.

Justice Thomas continued to omit his wife’s employment from his disclosures for the next 12 years, marking the “NONE” box on his annual forms. Other publicly available documents indicate that Justice Thomas’s wife did have employment in every one of those twelve years. Her employers included the Office of the U.S. House Majority Leader, the Heritage Foundation and Hillsdale College.

Documents obtained by Common Cause and Alliance for Justice show that Justice Thomas’s wife earned over $1.6 million from these sources. We understand that Justice Thomas is not required to disclose those earnings but we include the number here to show that his wife’s earnings were very substantial and that their omission is unlikely to have been a mere oversight.

It is very difficult for Justice Thomas to make a credible argument that he understood the filing instructions for ten years but then misunderstood them for the next thirteen years.

Section 104(b) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires the Judicial Conference to refer to the Attorney General any judge whom the Conference “has reasonable cause to believe has willfully falsified or willfully failed to file information required to be reported.”

We believe these facts easily establish reasonable cause, and as a result the Judicial Conference must refer this matter to the Attorney General for further investigation.

Sincerely,
Louise Slaughter

It’s inconceivable that a Supreme Court justice like Clarence Thomas would be unable to understand how to fill out the simple disclosure forms, especially since he accurately filled out the form for years before abruptly failing to do so.

Failure to disclose is a serious breach of the law, and the Ethics in Government Act requires the U.S. Judicial Conference to refer any judge to the Attorney General whom the Conference “has reasonable cause to believe has willfully failed to file a report or has willfully falsified or willfully failed to file information required to be reported.”

I applaud Rep. Slaughter for taking action to hold Justice Clarence Thomas accountable for his unethical behavior while a member of our Nation’s highest court. I’m writing to you to day to plead with you to stand with Rep. Slaughter in enforcing Section 104(b) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 and demand that the Judicial Conference refer Justice Thomas to the Attorney General and an investigation of his apparent unethical behavior.


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