Press Center

Common Cause Letters


September 13, 2011

James Duff
Administrative Head of the United States Courts
One Columbus Circle NE
Washington, DC 20544

Dear Mr. Duff,

Common Cause and Alliance for Justice write jointly to request that you investigate whether Justice Clarence Thomas's apparent violations of the Ethics in Government Act necessitate referral to the Department of Justice under the Act. This issue was previously brought to the Judicial Conference's attention in a January 21, 2011, letter from Common Cause. Since then, new information has come to light that increases the need for Judicial Conference to resolve this issue.

Between 1997-2007, Justice Thomas checked the box “none” for spousal income on his annual financial disclosure forms, despite the fact that Virginia Thomas earned nearly $700,000 from the Heritage Foundation from 2003-2007 alone. Shortly after this failure was noted, Justice Thomas amended his forms and stated that he had misunderstood the reporting requirement.

More recently, a June 19, 2011, New York Times article raised questions as to whether Justice Clarence Thomas may have also failed to disclose or misreported travel reimbursements. The New York Times story indicates that Justice Thomas may have, on several occasions, benefitted from use of Harlan Crow’s jets to travel to speaking engagements and other events, yet on two of those occasions Justice Thomas’ forms indicate a different source of reimbursement, and on one occasion there is no reimbursement reported.

Section 104(b) of the Act requires the Judicial Conference to refer to the Attorney General any judge whom the Conference “has reasonable cause to believe has willfully falsified or willfully failed to file information required to be reported.”

We respectfully request that the Judicial Conference make a public determination as to whether Justice Thomas’ failure to report his wife’s income, and or failing to disclose travel
reimbursements, give rise to “reasonable cause” under §104, and refer the matter to the Department of Justice if appropriate.


Bob Edgar
President and CEO
Common Cause

Nan Aron
Alliance for Justice