Letter to Justice Thomas on serious questions concerning Code of Conduct compliance

June 19, 2011

The Honorable Clarence Thomas, associate justice

United States Supreme Court

1 First Street Northeast

Washington D.C., DC 20543

Dear Justice Thomas:

On behalf of Common Cause and our more than 400,000 members and supporters across the country, I'm writing to urge your quick action to answer serious questions concerning your compliance with the requirements of the Ethics in Government Act and the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges and its canons.

The New York Times reported today that travel your disclosure reports indicate was financed by various educational institutions may in fact have been underwritten by Dallas-based developer Harlan Crow and taken aboard his private aircraft.

The discrepancy between your disclosure statement and the evidence reported by the Times is particularly disturbing given your previous acknowledged failure to report properly your wife's sources of income. These annual disclosures are critical to the ability of lawyers and litigants to evaluate whether members of the court are participating in cases in which they have a personal interest. The Ethics Act provides criminal penalties for willful violations of the disclosure requirement,

I also call your attention to the Times' report that you've been an active participant in fundraising activities on behalf of a proposed museum in your hometown of Pin Point, Ga. The Code of Conduct and its canons explicitly bar judges from taking anything more than an advisory role in such activities, however worthy the cause.

As you know, Common Cause has urged Chief Justice Roberts to detail the court's efforts to ensure that justices comply with Code. While the language of the Code does not appear to bind you and other justices, your colleagues Justices Kennedy and Breyer have testified that the court considers itself covered by the Code.

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. I hope you will act promptly to ensure that your future activities and off the bench - are in full compliance with the Code and that you will use your influence with your colleagues to put in place a formal process for monitoring compliance by the full Court.


Bob Edgar


Common Cause

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