Letter to Chief Justice Roberts on Justice Thomas' potential violation of Canons

June 19, 2011

The Honorable John Roberts, chief justice

United States Supreme Court

1 First Street Northeast

Washington D.C., DC 20543

Dear Chief Justice Roberts:

A report in today's editions of The New York Times suggests that Justice Clarence Thomas may have provided false information on the annual financial disclosure forms required by the Ethics in Government Act. The Times also reports that Justice Thomas has been engaged in fundraising activities that would appear to be at odds with the requirements of Canon 4 of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Justices.

I believe Justice Thomas' reported fundraising activities and potential violation of the Canons merit your attention as chief justice and a review by the full court. Our system of justice depends on public confidence that those administering the laws are also following them - in letter and spirit. Because the Supreme Court is at the pinnacle of the justice system, only it can enforce the rules on its members.

As you know, Common Cause has been concerned for some time about the Court's adherence to the Code of Conduct. While the language of the Code does not mention the Court, Justices Kennedy and Breyer told the House Appropriations Financial Services subcommittee on April 14 that the justices take pains to follow the canons.

"The Code of Conduct does apply to the justices in the sense that we have agreed to be bound by them," Justice Kennedy testified. "Those rules are public and if there is some question that we haven't complied with the letter or spirit of those rules, there can be comment about that. Of course, the court has to follow rules of judicial ethics. That's part of our oath, that's part of our obligation of neutrality."

"I think all the judges do what I do, which is we do follow the rules. They do apply. And somehow, it's gotten around (that) they don't. Well, they do. I apply them," Justice Breyer said.

It seems obvious that members of our highest court should observe the same high standards of conduct that the Code imposes on every other federal judge. In light of the Times report, I again urge you to use your influence with your colleagues to put in place a formal process to see that those standards are observed.

Sincerely,

Bob Edgar

President

Common Cause

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