On April 6, 2023, a bombshell report by ProPublica revealed that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts and luxury vacations from conservative billionaire Harlan Crow.
This could be a violation of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 – a law designed to promote transparency and fairness by requiring Supreme Court justices to disclose certain high-value gifts.
Every justice on the Supreme Court makes decisions that impact the lives of millions of people. Their verdicts should be driven by the law and the pursuit of justice alone – which is why even the appearance of external influence can be a major problem.
Now that we know Justice Thomas accepted lavish treatment from Crow – including luxury gifts, free trips on a 162-foot yacht, and private jet vacations with top right-wing judicial strategist Leonard Leo at Crow’s personal resort – we have to ask…
What were those hosting Justice Thomas on these trips expecting in return? What did they get? And what gaps in our current ethics requirements allowed this all to happen unreported?
What is Common Cause doing about it?
On April 11, 2023, Common Cause sent letters to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, urging them to call Justice Clarence Thomas as a witness in hearings to examine Supreme Court ethics. At these hearings, Congress can get the whole truth – and use what is uncovered to fill the gaps in our judicial ethics laws with bold and comprehensive new rules.
For more than a decade, Common Cause has been at the forefront of the fight for judicial ethics. We first shone a spotlight on Justice Thomas back in 2011, when we uncovered that he was failing to report his wife Ginni Thomas’ income from conservative lobbying interests that could benefit from cases before the court.
And in fact, this is not the first time that we have demanded transparency around Justice Thomas’ ties to Crow. Also in 2011, Common Cause wrote to the U.S. Judicial Conference, asking it to examine whether Justice Thomas failed to comply with disclosure laws after the New York Times’ released an article detailing Thomas’ close relationship with Crow.
Common Cause is determined to make sure the Supreme Court is subject to strong, all-encompassing ethics regulations – and with your help, we can make it happen.
What can I do?
If you want a fairer and more transparent Supreme Court, sign our petition: