Lawmakers are pressuring Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to testify against Justice Clarence Thomas regarding alleged improperly reported luxury gifts, The Hill reported. No formal subpoenas have been issued at this time, however.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter Thursday requesting Roberts or "another Justice" testify. The scope of the inquiry will be limited to luxury trips and gifts Thomas received from Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire and donor.
Thomas explained they were nothing more than hospitality between friends, but Durbin is demanding more. "I invite you, or another Justice whom you designate, to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 2, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building to testify at a public hearing regarding the ethical rules that govern the Justices of the Supreme Court and potential reforms to those rules," Durbin wrote, according to Fox News.
"In extending this invitation, I offer that the scope of your testimony can be limited to these subjects, and that you would not be expected to answer questions from Senators regarding any other matters," Durbin said. In a rare move, Thomas released his own statement confronting the allegations head-on.
"Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years," Thomas said. "As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them," he added.
"Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable," Thomas explained. "I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines."
"These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance. And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future," Thomas said.
Still, it seems Durbin is attempting to corner Roberts on this issue by claiming "there has been a steady stream of revelations regarding Justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally," Durbin said. "These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the Court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence."
"The status quo is no longer tenable," Durbin claimed. This inquiry is clearly a continuation of attacks against conservative justices, including Thomas, rather than a real ethics concern, however.
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, all of the right-leaning justices have been in the crosshairs. However, Thomas seems to have taken the brunt of it as he has for decades, a separate Fox News report said.
Hateful and racist slurs have been lobbed at Thomas since before he was even confirmed to the bench. During his 1994 confirmation hearing, Anita Hill alleged sexual harassment, which Thomas vehemently denied.
Political commentator Julianne Malveaux said at the time that she was hoping "his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early, like many Black men do, of heart disease." Recent attacks had no less venom after the landmark decision to overturn abortion rights.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson liked Thomas to the sell-out in "Uncle Tom's Cabin,' calling him "Uncle Clarence." He's been likened to the Ku Klux Klan and other offensive slurs, even though he wasn't the one to write the majority opinion in this case.
Whatever Durbin is really after, Thomas is a man of integrity who will likely come out on the other side untarnished. Until then, he and his colleagues will be forced once again to defend Thomas against a witch hunt -- and that's shameful.