OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin is calling on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to testify before Congress in early May about ethics rules for justices and potential reforms.
In a letter, the Democrat said Durbin said to Roberts that the chief justice last addressed ethical issues at the high court in 2011 and that since then, “there has been a steady stream of revelations regarding Justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally.”
“These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the Court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence. The status quo is no longer tenable,” Durbin said.
“While Durbin didn’t cite any specific examples of potential ethics violations, his request for Roberts’ testimony comes after ProPublica recently published reports about how Justice Clarence Thomas didn’t disclose gifts and luxury travel from wealthy GOP donor Harlan Crow, as well as the sale of properties from Thomas’ family to Crow,” NBC News reported.
Democrats have taken their war against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to another level, imploring Roberts to now step in as some discuss impeachment while others in the party press for Thomas to resign.
A group of 16 congressional Democrats has called on Roberts to investigate Thomas for accepting luxury trips from a prominent Republican donor for over two decades, trips that, by current rules and standards, he was not required to report.
“Eight senators and eight representatives sent Roberts a letter on Friday to urge him to initiate an investigation into any unethical and ‘potentially unlawful’ conduct that Thomas might have committed. The letter states that the court has ‘barely acknowledged’ the allegations so far,” The Hill reported.
“We believe that it is your duty as Chief Justice ‘to safeguard public faith in the judiciary,’ and that fulfilling that duty requires swift, thorough, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations,” the letter said.
On Thursday, ProPublica reported that billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow had provided Justice Clarence Thomas with luxury trips for years. These included cruises on Crow’s yacht, flying on his private jet, and socializing with Crow’s influential associates at his private resort. Crow is a real estate developer based in Dallas.
NEW: Senate Judiciary Committee chair writes to Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts about Justice Clarence Thomas's acceptance of gifts
"We urge you to immediately open such an investigation and take all needed action to prevent further misconduct" pic.twitter.com/zuDkACSpZh
— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) April 10, 2023
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have called on Chief Justice John Roberts to open an investigation into the undisclosed acceptance of luxury trips taken by Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, paid for by a Republican donor. https://t.co/wXp3vZkcES
— ABC News (@ABC) April 11, 2023
The outlet reported that Thomas received some gifts worth more than $500,000, but the justice did not disclose them over the years. In response to the report, Thomas claimed that he was “advised” that he did not need to disclose any of the trips.
“Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,” Thomas said in a rare response to criticism.
Some experts have come to Thomas’ defense, calling Democratic efforts to get him nothing but “politics.”
Roger Severino, vice president of domestic policy and The Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told Fox News late last week: “This is just grasping at straws by the left that is desperate to tear down Justice Thomas because he now has a working originalist majority on the court. This is politics. Plain and simple.”
The ProPublica report also claimed that trips taken by Thomas “have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court,” but Severino, a Harvard Law graduate, flatly rejected that, Fox News noted.
“There is no ‘there’ there because the justices have received gifts of hospitality from friends forever,” Severino said. “And many of the justices have taken far more trips than Justice Thomas on somebody else’s dime, including Justice Breyer, who we know has taken at least 233 trips when he was on the bench.”