Whitehouse calls for Supreme Court investigation into Clarence Thomas

By: - April 10, 2023 2:31 pm

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is leading the call for the U.S. Supreme Court to investigate alleged ethical violations by Justice Clarence Thomas. (Courtesy of U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse)

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.) are calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to launch an investigation into alleged misconduct by Justice Clarence Thomas for not reporting he accepted travel and gifts from an influential friend.

Whitehouse and Johnson are chairman and ranking member of the Senate and House Judiciary Courts Subcommittees respectively. Their signatures appear first at the end of an April 7 letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts in response to a ProPublica story detailing the long friendship Thomas has with billionaire Harlan Crow. 

Clarence Thomas and the billionaire


The ProPublica report covers how Thomas has received gifts and luxury vacations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over 20 years without following federal financial disclosure laws.

To date, the Court has barely acknowledged, much less investigated, these allegations,” the letter stated.  

“Amidst all of this—perhaps due in part to the Court’s inaction—the American people’s trust in the Supreme Court has plummeted to an all-time low.  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 specifically asked for Roberts to investigate who else accompanied Thomas on these trips.

“The public has no way of knowing who else with interests related to Justice Thomas’s official duties joined these trips and how those participants’ interests might conflict with court decisions,” the letter stated. 

“Should the Supreme Court continue to refuse to act swiftly on these matters, we will continue to press Congress to act to restore accountability and ethics at the highest Court in the land.”

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speaks at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021, in Washington, DC.(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Thomas issued a statement saying he did not believe he had to report the trips, but committed to obeying new federal disclosure rules adopted by the courts. Whitehouse has also introduced legislation that would strengthen judicial reporting mandates, including for gifts and travel, to mirror what is required of members of Congress.

The letter was also signed by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) Also signing were Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn).

Letter to Chief Justice Roberts re Justice Thomas and Ethics


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Nancy Lavin
Nancy Lavin

Nancy Lavin is senior reporter covering state politics, energy and environmental issues for the Rhode Island Current.