A government ethics watchdog is demanding that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas resign in the wake of numerous accounts of corruption and seeming right-wing conspiracies involving the justice unveiled by investigative reports in recent weeks.
In a letter sent to Thomas on Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote that the “truly shocking” reports that Thomas accepted and concealed hundreds of dollars’ worth of gifts and trips from conservative billionaire Harlan Crow — along with his refusal to recuse himself from key cases involving his wife — are posing major threats to American democracy.
“For the sake of the Court and for the sake of our democracy which depends on a judiciary that the public accepts as legitimate and free from corruption, we urge you to resign from office,” the letter says.
The organization published the letter in a post on its website simply titled: “Clarence Thomas must resign.”
“Your conduct has likely violated civil and criminal laws and has created the impression that access to and influence over Supreme Court justices is for sale,” CREW continued. “Moreover, it is contributing to a catastrophic decline in public confidence that threatens to undermine the entire federal judiciary. Resignation is the only course of action that remains to undo the damage you have done to the Court’s institutional legitimacy.
CREW President Noah Bookbinder emphasized the significance of the decision to call for Thomas to resign in a statement. “This is not something we do lightly,” said Bookbinder. “This is a place we never wanted to be.”
A mountain of revelations have come out about Thomas’s close relationship with Crow — and thus, his ties to the network of right-wing activists that Crow operates within, all hungry for access to one of the U.S.’s most influential legal officials.
This includes reports that Thomas accepted a trip valued at $500,000 to Indonesia on Crow’s superyacht, sold three properties for over $130,000 to Crow, and accepted tuition for his child’s boarding school potentially totalling over $100,000 — all without disclosing any of the gifts or transactions. Despite their decades-long relationship, however, Thomas refused to recuse himself from a 2005 Supreme Court case regarding an architecture firm founded by Crow’s father that the Crow family had a non-controlling stake in.
Thomas’s excuse for his failure to disclose the transactions, which experts have said is illegal, was that he was not aware of the law regarding disclosures and that he “was advised” that he didn’t have to disclose them.
CREW also points out Thomas’s “long-standing pattern of judicial misconduct” in the letter. In the past year, Thomas has come under fire for not recusing himself in Supreme Court cases related to the far right attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, despite his wife’s role in orchestrating the attack; last January, he was the only justice who dissented to halting Donald Trump’s attempt to stop the release of presidential documents related to the attack.
Thomas’s evidently close relationship with right-wing activists has given the wealthy and the far right tremendous favor in the High Court during his tenure, and Thomas has continually stood alone in writing decisions that, if they went his way, would give the wealthiest echelons of American society private and unfettered access to the Supreme Court and other high-level officials. Thomas has so cozied up to the right that Trump’s legal team openly spoke in emails about Thomas being a key legal ally in the Supreme Court in their fight to overturn the 2020 election.
CREW joins a number of other voices who have called for Thomas to be removed from his post. Shortly after the first bombshell ProPublica report was published last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said that Thomas “must be impeached,” and that “This degree of corruption is shocking — almost cartoonish.”
Last year, as Thomas was facing scrutiny over his wife’s January 6 ties, a petition for the justice to be impeached reached over a million signatures.