If Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to disclose the luxury trips and gifts — likely worth millions of dollars — that he reportedly accepted from billionaire GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, he violated financial disclosure law. Repeatedly. The same goes for if he failed to disclose the sale of real estate to Crow. There’s no question about it: The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 is as clear as day, and it without a doubt applies to Supreme Court justices.
Justice Thomas has cited confusion as an excuse for his failure to disclose. And, in a rare statement sent to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, all nine justices again asserted that they are above the rules that every other judge must follow. But just because the justices hold a unique position, that does not mean they’re beyond reproach. They’re just as beholden to the law as any other federal civil servant. And they’re answerable to us.
This latest scandal underscores a point we’ve made for years — that the Supreme Court is long overdue for a code of ethics. But in the present glaring absence of a code, it’s up to the Department of Justice to hold Justice Thomas accountable. Letting his brazen misconduct go unanswered for would do irreparable harm to the public’s belief in the Supreme Court’s integrity.
The law authorizes the attorney general to seek a civil monetary penalty for each knowing and willful violation of the disclosure law. That Justice Thomas repeatedly broke the law if failing to report these gifts is an undeniable fact.