It appears that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas might have crossed the line between acceptable out of court activity and activity that raises serious legal questions. Judicial historians and experts have always considered Justice Thomas as an enigma on the Supreme Court. There are now those who seek to hold Justice Thomas accountable for his out of court activities. Some experts on the Supreme Court believe that Justice Thomas thinks that he is above the law. Some members of the House of Representatives are calling for an investigation into Judge Thomas’ off the bench activities and how he reports these activities on required disclosure forms.
President George W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to fill the seat of Thurgood Marshall who had retired from the bench. Thurgood Marshal had been the high court’s only African-American member. He often sided with the court’s liberal wing. President Bush was under tremendous political pressure to nominate another African-American to sit on the Supreme Court. I believe that President Bush thought that the nomination of Clarence Thomas would appease Black Americans while at the same time please the conservatives who demanded that the appointment move the Supreme Court more towards the right. Eventually the selection of Clarence Thomas cost President Bush much of his political capital.
Justice Thomas has always been involved in Republican politics. In Missouri he developed and cultivated important political contacts. He was a successful attorney, which success helped propel him into higher political circles. Judge Thomas served in the presidential administrations of Ronald Regan and George Bush, who appointment him to serve on the Court of Appeals.
The nomination of Clarence Thomas proved extremely controversial and embarrassing to President Bush. Senate approval of the nomination appeared to be a lock until Anita Hill testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. She accused the Judge Thomas of having sexually harassed her during their time together at EEOC. Who did not watch the nationally televised hearings? I do not believe that Anita Hill or Judge Thomas acquitted themselves well during the hearings. Their performance and testimony was disgraceful and troublesome at the same time. It was obvious that Judge Thomas had used poor judgment in his dealings with Ms. Hill. In my opinion he did not respect the laws that he was supposedly sworn to uphold. The Senate eventually approved by a close vote of 52-48 Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court. I believe that President Bush should have withdrawn the nomination in light of Judge Thomas’ apparent unfitness for the post. History is now proving that it was an error to elevate Judge Thomas to the Supreme Court.
Led by House Rules Committee ranking member, Rep. Louise Slaughter (C-N.Y.), a number of Democratic lawmakers are calling for an investigation of Justice Thomas. In a letter sent to the Judicial Conference (JC) of the United States, the lawmakers requested that it investigate and learn if Justice Thomas failed to comply with the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. If the JC finds that the Justice Thomas failed to comply with the law, it must refer the matter to the Department of Justice for further investigation or action. The lawmakers’ letter stated that the signatories believed that Judge Clarence Thomas’ failure to show income and gifts was suspicious. It is not clear why the Congresswoman choose this moment to demand an investigation. The request is not related to an official pending Congressional investigation of Justice Thomas. I believe this is an attempt to smear Judge Thomas and, in the process, distract public attention from the nation’s problem. Still; I do not think that this group of legislators believes that their actions will force a change in the Court’s composition. It is interesting to note that the Democratic House leadership did not sign the letter nor have they indicated their support for this initiative.
The legislators in their letter to the JC referred to a June 2011 article that appeared in the New York Times .The article focused generally on Justice Thomas’ ethics and in particular his relationship with Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate mogul. Mr. Crow invested millions to buy and restore a cannery in Judge Thomas’ hometown. These transactions were made with the approval and consent of Judge Thomas, who had sentimental feelings towards the cannery. It is a fact that Mr. Crow has showered luxurious gifts on both of Thomas and invested money into projects that they support. The Times article specifically questioned Mr. Thomas’ hand in hand relationship with Mr. Crow in the building of “Judge Thomas’ museum.” Though Justice Thomas’ relationship and activities with Crow are questionable, I do not believe that the he has violated any relevant ethical standard that governs Supreme Court Justices.