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Liberals Push SCOTUS ‘Model’ Ethics Code That Could Sideline Justice Thomas

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Left-wing activists running judicial reform groups are attempting to push a new “model” that would, if adopted, dilute the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats have not had any luck in recent years expanding the U.S. Supreme Court, so some argue this new “plan” is the Left’s way of diluting the current 6-3 Republican-appointed majority on the nation’s highest court.

Project on Government Oversight and Lawyers Defending American Democracy have proposed a new “model” ethics code that could thrust Republican-appointed Justice Clarence Thomas further into the political limelight.

“The proposed guidelines from so-called independent government watchdogs Project on Government Oversight and Lawyers Defending American Democracy would put in place ‘more stringent guidelines for recusal.’ The guidelines would be so strict that if they were in effect last year, it may have prevented the high court’s eldest Republican-appointed justice, Thomas, from participating in a case involving the release of Trump administration records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot,” the Washington Examiner reported.

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“Such a provision would clearly have forbidden Justice Clarence Thomas from participating” in the 2022 case, NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported Thursday.

The outlet added:

Thomas was the single dissenter when the rest of the court refused former President Donald Trump’s effort to block those records from disclosure, materials that later revealed Thomas’s spouse communicated with top Trump White House officials, showing her calls for them to take actions to block certification of the 2020 election results that cemented President Joe Biden’s victory.

The 27-page “Model Code of Conduct for U.S. Supreme Court Justices,” published March 9, mentions the word “spouse” a total of 14 times and highlights on page five that “certain conduct by a spouse or other close family members of a Justice would require that Justice to recuse,” according to a copy reviewed by the Washington Examiner.

While the report does not mention justices or their spouses by name, its greatest impact could be leveled at Ginni Thomas, a prominent conservative activist, and attorney. Under the code, justices and their close family members would be barred from “exploiting the judicial position” and “engaging in political” activity that presents the appearance of partisanship.

“Spouses are mentioned 12 times in the current code for the lower court judges,” Fix the Court founder Gabe Roth told the Washington Examiner. “Two things can be true at the same time: One, there is value in having an ethics code that the justices can measure their behavior against and the public can measure the justices’ behavior against. Two, it can be sort of operationally difficult to have a code without having some enforcement mechanism if the code is violated.”

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Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino, who previously served as Justice Thomas’ law clerk, called the new code of conduct proposal a blatant attack against conservative justices.

“This is putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” she told the Washington Examiner.

Severino said the Project on Government Oversight is one of many “left-wing dark money groups” trying to “force ethically unnecessary recusals of the justices because they don’t like the current composition of the Supreme Court.”

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Sarah Turberville, director of the Constitution Project at POGO, supports the new proposals and is calling on the Supreme Court to adopt “stronger ethical standards” for “self-preservation.”

“[The justices] are blind to the fact that the public’s faith in the institution is waning, and the public’s faith is the only thing that gives the court’s ruling any force of law,” she said, adding that the high court’s lack of a code of conduct “diminishes the public’s faith in the court as an institution [and] as a fair and impartial arbiter of the law and of justice.”

As noted by The Grio, “This rule would have prohibited Justice Clarence Thomas from participating in hearing oral arguments in Trump v. Thompson. In that case, the Supreme Court rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to stop the House January 6 Select Committee from acquiring White House records related to the 2021 Capitol attack.”

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