Clarence Thomas has another ethics problem, and his name is Texan Harlan Crow

Clarence is at it again, and by “it” I mean getting found out for taking decades-long money and gifts from the deeply conservative Texan, Harlan Crow. According to the New York Times headline:

Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics

As opposed to baseball, I suppose.

So let’s look. The Times (my emphasis):

Mr. Crow stepped in to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery [the dilapidated place where Thomas’s mother worked, in the town that calls itself the birthplace of Justice Clarence Thomas], featuring a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point that has become a pet project of Justice Thomas’s.

The project throws a spotlight on an unusual, and ethically sensitive, friendship that appears to be markedly different from those of other justices on the nation’s highest court.

The two men met in the mid-1990s, a few years after Justice Thomas joined the court. Since then, Mr. Crow has done many favors for the justice and his wife, Virginia, helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Justice Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for Ms. Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group. They have also spent time together at gatherings of prominent Republicans and businesspeople at Mr. Crow’s Adirondacks estate and his camp in East Texas.

According to Think Progress:

[Harlan] Crow has donated nearly $5 million to Republican candidates and conservative organizations, including $100,000 to the anti-John Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth[.]

Think Progress then goes on to catalog the seemingly endless list of ethical lines that Thomas has crossed. These include:

That’s not the end.

And to answer the question on your lips, Yes, Congress can impeach Supreme Court justices (my emphasis):

A Supreme Court Justice may be impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office if convicted in a Senate trial, but only for the same types of offenses that would trigger impeachment proceedings for any other government official under Articles I and II of the Constitution.

Article III, Section 1 states that judges of Article III courts shall hold their offices “during good behavior.” “The phrase “good behavior” has been interpreted by the courts to equate to the same level of seriousness ‘high crimes and misdemeanors” encompasses.

In addition, any federal judge may prosecuted in the criminal courts for criminal activity.

In practice, only one Justice, Samuel Chase, has been impeached, and that in 1804 (the Senate acquitted him in 1805). From and WikiAnswers (my emphasis):

Only one Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Chase (one of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence), has ever been impeached. The House of Representatives accused Chase of letting his Federalist political leanings affect his rulings, and served him with eight articles of impeachment in late 1804. The Senate acquitted him of all charges in 1805, establishing the right of the judiciary to independent opinion. Chase continued on the Court until his death in June 1811.

As you can imagine, that’s a tough nut to crack. Maybe the criminal court is a better bet. Keep digging, folks.

(By the way, if the name Harlan Crow sounds familiar, he’s the son of Trammell Crow, founder of the Wyndham Hotel chain, among other holdings. Wyndham … nice name; worth remembering.)


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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