Five Bay Area House members were among 20 House Democrats who urged the Judicial Conference of the United States yesterday to refer U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Justice Department for an ethics probe.
Thomas has come under fire recently for apparently failing to meet personal financial disclosure requirements under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. Specifically, he had indicated for years that his wife was receiving no income, when in fact she earned nearly $700,000 from 2003 through 2007 working for the conservative Heritage Foundation. Also, the New York Times reported in June that Thomas didn’t disclose his use of a private yacht and airplane owned by his friend, real estate magnate Harlan Crow.
“Based upon the multiple public reports, Justice Thomas’s actions may constitute a willful failure to disclose, which would warrant a referral by the Judicial Conference to the Department of Justice, so that appropriate civil or criminal actions can be taken,” Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, the House Rules Committee’s ranking Democrat, wrote yesterday in a letter to Judicial Conference Secretary James Duff.
Slaughter wrote that Section 104(b) of the Ethics Act requires the Judicial Conference to refer to the U.S. Attorney General any judge who the Conference “has reasonable cause to believe has willfully failed to file a report or has willfully falsified or willfully failed to file information required to be reported.”
“Particularly as questions surrounding the integrity and fairness of the Supreme Court continue to grow, it is vital that the Judicial Conference actively pursue any suspicious actions by Supreme Court Justices,” Slaughter wrote. “While we continue to advocate for the creation of binding ethical standards for the Supreme Court, it is important the Judicial Conference exercise its current powers to ensure that Supreme Court Justices are held accountable to the current law.”