(New York) The idea that Clarence Thomas is persecuted by his political or ideological enemies is not new.
The ultra-conservative judge himself memorably expressed it during the confirmation proceedings that elevated him to the United States Supreme Court in 1991.
“This is a high-tech lynching for cocky black people who somehow deign to think for themselves,” he said at a hearing in which he denied in front of 14 white senators and millions of viewers sexual harassment accusations made against him by former aide Anita Hill.
Sixteen years later, his anger was intact. In My Grandfather’s Son, his autobiography, the native of Pin Point, a remote town in Georgia, returned to the Anita Hill case in an extraordinary paragraph:
Now 74, has the dean of the Supreme Court recovered from that anger, that sense of persecution? The story does not say. But his admirers, who are legion within the American right, have taken over in recent days.
The background: The bombshell revelations from news site ProPublica about the many gifts that Texan billionaire and Republican Party megadonor Harlan Crow has given Clarence Thomas over the past two decades. Gifts that the judge did not report in his financial statements, as he should have done.
As a contributor to the conservative blog Volokh Conspiracy commented: “Thomas’ apparent aim is not to conceal real or apparent conflicts of interest. […] His goal seems to be to protect his privacy from the critics who have been trying to destroy him for over 30 years. »
Many Republican senators have defended the integrity of Clarence Thomas by taking up this argument.
“What we’re seeing right now is a violation of the law,” New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, calling on the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against the judge.
The following facts are not disputed. Clarence Thomas accepted luxury trips offered by Harlan Crow, heir to a real estate empire, virtually every year for decades, including international cruises on yachts and private jet flights around the world.
Crow also paid money to Clarence Thomas as part of a real estate transaction. And, after buying the house where the judge’s mother still lives, Crow has invested tens of thousands of dollars in improving the property.
He also paid for the studies of the great-nephew of Clarence Thomas, of whom the latter obtained legal custody, in private boarding schools in Georgia and Virginia.
After ProPublica’s revelations about the luxury trips he enjoyed, the judge said he didn’t think he had to declare “this type of personal hospitality from close friends, who had no causes to deal with the Court”.
In fact, according to a court policy guide, transportation that substitutes for commercial transportation must be disclosed. And while debate persists as to whether Harlan Crow had any Supreme Court cases, one fact is undeniable: he funded organizations, including the Federalist Society, that contributed to the conservative, even reactionary, turn of the Supreme Court. .
Evidence of persecution or corruption, the revelations of ProPublica have highlighted the glaring absence of a code of conduct at the Supreme Court of the United States. Unlike the rest of the federal judiciary, the highest American court does not have a procedure for examining complaints of ethical misconduct, or even a binding ethics policy.
Hence the recent decision by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin to hold a hearing on this issue at which he asked Supreme Court President John Roberts to participate as a witness.
“I hope the Chief Justice understands that something needs to be done,” the Democratic senator said. The Court’s reputation and credibility are at stake. »
While denying his request in the name of the separation of powers, Justice Roberts provided Senator Durbin with a “Statement of Ethical Principles and Practices” signed by all nine Supreme Court justices. However, the document makes no mention of a code of conduct holding members of the Supreme Court to account for violations of the law.
The bottom line: Until further notice, the American public will have to continue to rely on the goodwill of Supreme Court justices on ethical matters. And Clarence Thomas may attribute the corruption charges he now faces to the persecution he once complained about.
The ProPublica site reveals that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted luxury trips offered by Texas billionaire Harlan Crow. The judge did not disclose these gifts in his financial statements.
ProPublica uncovers a 2014 real estate transaction between Crow and members of the Thomas family that the judge also failed to disclose.
New ProPublica exclusive: Crow paid for Thomas’ great-nephew to attend boarding schools in Georgia and Virginia. The judge did not declare these gifts.