Matt Bush, FISM News
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was released from the hospital last Friday after being treated for an infection for almost a week. When he returned to the bench, he was met by a letter from 24 Democrats including Senators Warren, Booker, and Blumenthal, asking him to recuse himself from any case dealing with the events surrounding January 6 at the Capitol.
The letter recounts Judge Thomas’ wife’s involvement in the January 6 events and highlights texts between Virginia Thomas and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The texts occurred between November 2020 and January 2021 and had to do with Thomas’ belief that the election was stolen as she urged Meadows and other top Republican officials to stand strong and fight against what she believed to be false election results. To see the Boston Globe’s record of the text cache, click here.
This letter is representative of the broader sentiment of America’s intensely divided political parties. While the 24 politicians to sign this letter were exclusively Democrats, Republican politicians such as Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and Josh Hawley have been expressly unified in their support of Justice Thomas.
Josh Hawley is quoted by Newsweek as saying, “She’s (Virginia Thomas) an independent, adult woman. It just seems a little strange to me all of these calls for her husband to be what, like, minding her better? Frankly, I think it’s kind of misogynistic.” McConnell and McCarthy both pointed to Thomas’ brilliance and impartiality in past cases as well as his complete adherence to the law since he took the bench in 1991. These three prominent Republicans seem to speak for the party in their support of Thomas remaining involved in all cases brought to the Supreme Court.
Adversely, the letter sent by the 24 Democrats paints a different picture of the Thomases. Their argument hinges on cherry-picked sections of the law which they are attempting to apply, in an unprecedented manner, to Judge Clarence’s wife. The first section of the letter depicts Virginia Thomas as wanting to overthrow the election results, implying that Justice Thomas could not rule impartially on a case in which his wife might be affected. The letter notes, “Federal law clearly states the standards for a judge’s recusal from a case. Under 28 U.S.C. § 455, any judge—including a Supreme Court Justice—must disqualify himself from ‘any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.’ And any judge must do the same when he knows that his spouse has ‘any … interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.’ Ignorance or willful blindness is simply no excuse.”
Virginia Thomas’ purported belief that the election was stolen would bear no legal implications to her regardless of the results of the case. However, Democrats argue that when Justice Thomas voted, as the only Justice in an 8-1 decision, not to transfer key White House records to the committee probing January 6, he did so to protect his wife regardless of the law.
The second half of the letter urges Chief Justice Roberts to “Commit no later than April 28, 2022, to creating a binding Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court—the only court in the country not currently subject to a judicial code of ethics—that includes (1) enforceable provisions to ensure that the Justices comply with this Code and (2) a requirement that all Justices issue written recusal decisions.”
Creating a judicial code of ethics for the Supreme Court may seem like a reasonable and appropriate choice by most. However, the timing of this pursuit is questionable, with many wondering what action the Democrat party would take if the court’s majority was in their favor. The letter closes by stating, “Chief Justice Roberts has often spoken about the importance of the Supreme Court’s “credibility and legitimacy as an institution. That trust, already at all-time lows with the American public, must be earned.”
Republicans are pushing back in response to these statements, highlighting how, in fact, Justice Thomas has continually proven his credibility and earned the trust of Americans through his record of impartiality and commitment to the law.
Clarence Thomas, at 73 years of age, is the most senior member of the Supreme Court and recently celebrated his 30th year on the court since the first George Bush nominated him in 1991. He is currently the only African-American serving on the Supreme Court and is one of only two African Americans to ever become a Supreme Court Justice.