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Impeach Clarence Thomas

In the entire history of the United States, only one Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached.  That’s fewer than the number of presidential impeachments (four).  It’s time for the second.  

The Constitution allows for the House of Representatives to impeach judges and Executive Branch officials as a step in the removal of the official for misdeeds.  (There was one Senator impeached–William Blount, the first US federal official ever impeached–before Congress decided that each chamber would expel, not impeach, its own members.)  Twenty people have been impeached–one twice, and we all know who that was–with eight convicted and removed from office.  All those removed were federal judges.  

Clarence Thomas has been skating through his time on the Court in relative peace.  Perhaps that’s because he’s been literally silent:  at times, months of court cases would have been heard in the Supreme Court without Thomas uttering a single word.  While that may reflect a contemplative nature, it’s more likely a sign that Thomas had predetermined outcomes in cases, prepped to follow the GOP’s Party line and not the law.  

Judges cannot be impeached because of their legal rulings, but they can be impeached for their behavior on and off the bench.  Thomas’s behavior, from the time he was sworn in to today, merits impeachment because of continuing breaches of professional ethics that would get a lawyer disbarred.

The most recent issue, disclosed today, involves his wife’s advocacy for the Trump Administration to overturn the 2020 presidential election to keep Donald Trump in the White House.  While Clarence Thomas is not liable for his wife’s actions, he is responsible for his failure to disclose her active advocacy for an issue that has, and will again, be argued before the Supreme Court, particularly because Ginni Thomas has been highly paid by conservative organizations.  

When Thomas joined the Court during the GHW Bush Administration, Ginni Thomas’s income from those conservative organizations was kept secret from the general public; Clarence Thomas didn’t list any of her income on his required financial disclosure forms.  In fact, the record wouldn’t be corrected for twenty years–nearly a quarter century–when in 2011, he amended the previous 20 years of disclosure forms to disclose his wife’s employment and income from numerous conservative organizations that had had cases and interests before the Supreme Court in the previous two decades.

Clarence Thomas has been dogged by accusations of sexual harassment, with one case going public in 2016.  The case didn’t make national headlines because it was disclosed the same day that Trump’s infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” video was uncovered.  Thomas, of course, denies the accusation, but the case needs significant investigation and explanation.  Thomas, for his part, denies the charges.  The reported victim stands by her claim.

Clarence Thomas’s 30 years on the Supreme Court are tainted, and they are getting more and more tainted with each passing day.  His decisions and votes on cases must now be scrutinized in light of his wife’s finances, lobbying and influence.  His disregard for the rules of the Supreme Court and federal government relating to financial disclosures would have killed his nomination in 1991 if they had become public.  And his continuing failure to recuse himself in light of his wife’s advocacy (and employers) would have led to ethics violations if he served on any other court–from a county justice of the peace to a federal judge.

In innumerable 5-4 cases, Thomas cast the deciding votes–votes that now must be reexamined with an eye to how the decision was impacted by the Thomas’ financial considerations, particularly in those cases involving a Ginni Thomas benefactor.

To be clear, judges on all levels have had cases in which they have a passing, non-disqualifying interest in the issue or one (or both) of the involved parties.  We expect that they oversee their cases without bias or prejudice.  But when those interests overwhelm the appearance of impartiality, those issues of law must take precedence and the judge must exit the case.

Thomas has put the Supreme Court’s impartiality into question not for politics, but for greed.

Clarence Thomas must be impeached and removed from the bench for his consistent failure to uphold the pledge of impartiality for a judge.  He must be impeached for failing to disclose his financial interests in issues and parties with interests before the Court.  And he must be impeached to show the American people that the government branch entrusted with meting out justice is not tainted by personal vice.  

Speculation of Thomas’s health aside, Congress needs to act on this to reinforce the government’s commitment to justice.  No future judge can be allowed to “update” financial documents to the extent Thomas did without an investigation.  This isn’t about Thomas’s politics; it’s about his ethics.  

To ensure that this issue never arises again, Congress needs to pass a law that requires Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves, at the recommendation of the Supreme Court’s Inspector General.  Failure to disclose potential conflicts should lead to discipline such as fines.  The conservative judges on the Supreme Court have demonstrated their lack of concern for ethics, professional and personal.  Congress needs to mandate it, regardless of the pushback from SCOTUS purists who say the Court should stand alone because the justices have shown they simply don’t give a damn about justice.  

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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