AFJ and Common Cause Ask Judicial Conference to Investigate Potential Violations of Ethics in Government Act by Justice Clarence Thomas
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Washington, D.C., September 13, 2011—Alliance for Justice and Common Cause asked the Judicial Conference of the United States today to determine whether apparent violations of the Ethics in Government Act by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should be referred to the Justice Department for possible enforcement.
Financial disclosure reports filed by Justice Thomas indicate that between 1997 and 2007 the justice incorrectly checked the box marked “none” on the question related to income earned by his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas. In fact, Mrs. Thomas received nearly $700,000 in compensation from the Heritage Foundation from 2003 to 2007 alone, income revealed by Heritage in its annual tax filings.
Alliance for Justice and Common Cause also asked the conference to examine issues raised by a June 19, 2011, New York Times article detailing Justice Thomas’ close relationship with Texas real-estate developer Harlan Crow. The Times reported that the justice appears to have misreported or failed to report travel taken at Crow’s expense.
The Judicial Conference, the administrative arm of the federal court system, is holding a semi-annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on September 13. The conference has made no public statement on the Thomas matter, despite national publicity concerning gaps or errors in the Justice’s annual financial disclosures.
Federal law requires the Conference to refer to the Attorney General any federal judge, including Supreme Court justices, whom the Conference “has reasonable cause to believe has willfully falsified or willfully failed to file information required to be reported.”
“In America, no one is above the law, including Supreme Court justices,” said Common Cause President and CEO Bob Edgar. For more than a decade, Justice Thomas omitted information about his wife’s income, clearly required by the Ethics in Government Act, from his annual financial disclosure report. Surely such a repeated violation, by someone entrusted to apply laws far more complex than the Ethics Act, at least deserves a formal review by the Judicial Conference and the Attorney General.”
In signing the letter, Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron said, “The Supreme Court is our most important legal institution. The American people must have absolute trust in the ethical behavior of its justices. Justice Thomas’ apparent noncompliance with the Ethics in Government Act is sufficiently serious and well-documented to merit examination and referral by the Judicial Conference. The recent revelations in the New York Times about travel reimbursements demonstrate that further investigation is essential. The statute requiring action is clear. But even clearer is the need to once and for all determine the facts surrounding Justice Thomas’ actions and preserve the integrity of our nation’s highest court.”
A copy of the letter is online here.
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Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. AFJ works to ensure that the federal judiciary advances core constitutional values, preserves human rights and unfettered access to the courts, and adheres to the even-handed administration of justice for all Americans. It is the leading expert on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy efforts, providing definitive information, resources, and technical assistance that encourages organizations and their funding partners to fully exercise their right to be active participants in the democratic process. AFJ is based in Washington, D.C.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard. Bob Edgar is the organization’s president.