Supreme Court in general and hints deeply at corruption on the part of Thomas himself.Justice Clarence Thomas is under more pressure than usual from the left-leaning politicians and Fourth Estate as the ProPublica website releases a deep-dive into his connections to billionaire mogul Harlan Crow. Detailing trips to Crow’s Adirondacks estate and cruises on the business magnate’s yacht, the report lambasts the lack of ethics consideration for the
Naturally, Democrats were quick to join the chorus demanding investigations and impeachment – and not necessarily in that order.
But of what precisely is Justice Clarence Thomas being accused? And is there more smoke than fire to the allegations? We spoke with Liberty Nation’s Legal Affairs Editor, Scott D. Cosenza, to sort the rhetoric from reality.
Mark Angelides: Scott, the first and most significant question is whether Clarence Thomas going on holiday and taking boat trips with someone breaches Supreme Court rules. And as a follow-up, is it even considered unethical?
Scott D. Cosenza: The ProPublica “expose” revealed no breach of the disclosure required by the U.S. code. It’s debatable whether that can even be applied to a Supreme Court justice, but assuming it does, the report reveals no violations by Justice Thomas. The Thomas’ are friends with the Crows and vacation with them. U.S. Code Title 5 Part 4, Chapter 131 Subchapter I § 13104, the relevant reporting requirement exempts explicitly “any food, lodging, or entertainment received as personal hospitality of an individual… .” The law does not differentiate whether the food is caviar or corndogs.
MA: Far-left Democrats – and I’m specifically talking about New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – call Thomas’ actions “shocking” and demand that Thomas “must be impeached.” What’s your legal take on this position?
SDC: That statement does not call for a legal position because it’s a political argument. This is appropriate, as the article presents a political attack because the Thomas’ are friends with an ultra-wealthy couple. Justice Thomas has been vilified in the press since his nomination, so it is not a heavy lift to attribute nefarious deeds to him without any fire behind the smoke. There is no suggestion Justice Thomas changed a vote on a case to suit the Crows or their interests. Also, there is no suggestion the friendship isn’t real – they wrote, “the pair have become genuine friends, according to people who know both men.”
I don’t see how any of that leads up to impeachment, which is for high crimes and misdemeanors.
MA: Let’s talk historical precedence. Has a Supreme Court justice ever been impeached? And what would be the legal process for doing so? I ask this because it seems that Congress or the Executive taking the reins on such a decision would upset the delicate separation of powers in the three branches, wouldn’t it?
SDC: Associate Justice Samuel Chase was impeached by the House in 1804 but acquitted by the Senate the following year. Historical accounts show it was a decidedly partisan affair…. The process for impeaching a Supreme Court justice is the same as for the President – a House vote to impeach and a removal vote in the Senate if required.
MA: I feel as though every few months, we hear some allegedly “bombshell” information that the left insists must result in either removing a right-leaning justice or expanding the court. Now, this is not quite a legal question, but do you feel that this type of story – regardless of its merit – could be the issue that builds public support for taking structural action against the court?
SDC: I fear that could be the case. “We have an emergency and must act now with radical change!” That seems to be the rallying cry for many pushing for structural change at the court. Seeing no emergency and being skeptical of their motives and values, I reject that claim. Sober, protracted discussion about the future course of the Judiciary and how it can best meet the needs of Americans seems a better way to confront structural change there.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
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