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 April 10, 2023

Democrats have asked the Supreme Court to investigate Clarence Thomas' undisclosed travels

Democrats have asked the Supreme Court to investigate Clarence Thomas' undisclosed travels, according to The Washington Examiner.

A group of 22 Democrats in the House and Senate have demanded that Chief Justice John Roberts investigate Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose that he accepted "luxury trips" and other gifts from a Republican megadonor. In a letter dated Friday, eleven House Democrats and eleven Senate Democrats urged the chief justice to act expeditiously.

The letter referenced Thursday's disclosures that Thomas “accepted luxury trips virtually every year” from Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate developer, and Republican donor, without disclosing them for more than two decades. The legislators were concerned about "unethical, and potentially unlawful, conduct at the Supreme Court."

"To date, the Court has barely acknowledged, much less investigated, these allegations. Amidst all of this — perhaps due in part to the Court’s inaction — the American people’s trust in the Supreme Court has plummeted to an all-time low," the letter reads.

"We believe that it is your duty as Chief Justice ‘to safeguard public faith in the judiciary,’ and that fulfilling that duty requires swift, thorough, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations."

In addition to Thomas's Friday statement, the Supreme Court has not commented on the revelations, as pointed out by the legislators.

The associate Supreme Court justice said in a rare public statement with his wife Ginni Thomas, a prominent conservative activist, on Friday that he "was advised" he was not required to disclose the trips, which included a 2019 visit to Indonesia, a cruise to New Zealand nearly a decade ago, and an exclusive all-male retreat known as Bohemian Grove in California.

Crow, meanwhile, denied ever attempting to influence a judge's decisions using travel benefits and other gifts.

Regarding their investigation request, the legislators wrote in their letter that they "have reason to believe" that Crow is affiliated with numerous amicus brief-filing organizations. Therefore, they urged Roberts to investigate whether anyone "with interests related to Justice Thomas's official duties" participated in the travels.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who lead Judiciary subcommittees on federal courts in their respective chambers, spearheaded the letter. On the Senate side, it was also co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The signatories from the House were Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Deborah Ross (D-NC), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Cori Bush (D-MO), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Steve Cohen (D-TN).

The lawmakers warned Roberts that if he did not act, they would "continue to press Congress to act to restore accountability and ethics to the nation's highest court."

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee but did not sign the letter on Friday, pledged that his committee "will act" in response to the Thursday ProPublica report. Nonetheless, it is unclear what the committee intends to do.

Senate Democrats have considered using this year's Supreme Court funding bill to urge justices to adopt an ethics code mandating more transparent procedures for recusals and the investigation of allegations of ethical violations. The number two Democrat in the Senate has long supported the implementation of an ethics code for judges.

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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