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The integrity of the nation’s highest court is essential to the fabric of our democracy. On numerous occasions Associate Justice Thomas has demonstrated conduct unbecoming of a Supreme Court justice, raising questions of candor, accountability, and ethics. Instances of impropriety or bias, or the appearance of partiality or prejudice, undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and its ability to rule effectively.
For a good overview of why this petition is necessary, see this article from the New York Times from January 24, 2011:
For an enlightening interview from Justice Thomas to get a sense of who he is and what some of his views on life, leadership, and the law are, this is a great video. As you will see, this is in no way an effort to villify a public official. This is, however, an urgent call for accountability for a position that offers little in the way of oversight.
In an effort to show that none of us are one-dimensional or mere caricatures, this is a heart-warming piece on the power of generosity and doing what we can to help those in need.
Here is Liberty Central's 990 Form, which clearly indicates raising over half-a-million dollars during the time in which the Supreme Court was deliberating Citizens United v FEC, a case regulating the scope of campaign activity for 501(c)(4)s.
This is the Koch Industries fundraising event in which Justice Thomas's name was used to further the political goals of others.
Other instances in which access to Justice Thomas was used to further the political goals of others:
From POLITICO: "In a weekly email to the network, Gentry passes along tips on donor prospecting and maintenance and cites best practices. For example, in a February email obtained by POLITICO, he shared advice from a Heritage fundraiser who suggested his group won the loyalty of a million-dollar donor who attended Koch summits by introducing him to big names who spoke at Heritage events, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas."
We were featured in a US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT article: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/07/02/new-financial-forms-show-clarence-thomass-wife-continued-to-lobby-against-healthcare-in-2011
- Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas
I just signed the following petition addressed to: You, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas.
Your tenure on the Supreme Court has been one of honor and distinction. This letter reaches you, therefore, in a spirit of respect and admiration. To the extent that you have served as a pillar of American jurisprudence for over twenty years, your dedication and service speaks for itself. In an interview with Julian Bond, you said “when you are called upon to do a job you do it the best you can.” It is without equivocation that this has been the case. Stating otherwise would not only be callous but unfair and wrong. From the most humble of beginnings, to the highest seat of prestige and power, the trajectory and accomplishments of your career is a testament to all that is good and decent in this country. One such example is how you helped a young nursing student pursue their dreams by helping to secure the difference in funding between their chosen school's tuition and the scholarship awards they received. No doubt this is one of countless instances in which the opportunity to help others was selflessly undertaken without expectation of publicity or reciprocation. Admitting these truths is not to pander nor patronize, but to openly and honestly acknowledge the undeniable.
In the name of open and honest dialogue, however, one must regretfully acknowledge the persistent lapses in personal judgment you have exhibited in the past few years. Some of these lapses have consisted of undisclosed fiduciary interests, the perception of partiality and bias, and the inability in good faith to adjudicate in a dispassionate and detached manner. According to the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges (which, if not legally binding, ought to be a guideline for the Supreme Court), you have the responsibility to "act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary" and to "avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities."
Additionally, many of these instances fulfill the "reasonable person" standard in affirming the objectivity of these grievances. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit claims a reasonable person is an "objective, disinterested observer." Moreover, this litmus test in evaluating instances of partiality and bias necessitates a complete understanding of all the germane circumstances and relevant facts. Cognizant of these two constituent elements, we feel not only justified but compelled to highlight instances where a "reasonable person" might question the appearance of bias or the prevalence of partiality, and where public confidence might sensibly diminish.
These injuries largely center on instances where you have been less-than-forthcoming on matters concerning household fiduciary interests, and where your duty to provide a knowledgeable, transparent, and accountable picture of material assets has too often been opaque and obscured. The ability for the Supreme Court to faithfully execute its job hinges on the belief that justices are properly fulfilling the American public's expectations of acting in good faith and are disclosing accurate assessments of their personal and household interests.
Illustrative of our contention that resigning is the right and appropriate action needed, it is by now well-documented that years of your spouse's annual income were incorrectly marked as "none" on the relevant disclosure forms under penalty of perjury. After this was brought to your attention and rectified, a statement was released stating the information was “inadvertently omitted [Virginia Thomas's financial information for the years 1997-2009] due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions." This was a curious explanation because for the first six years on the Court the relevant information concerning household financial information was correctly supplied. Yet, without a change to the disclosure form itself, you began marking "none" for over a decade while your spouse continued to work and earned six-figures annually, swearing that the information on these documents was "accurate, true, and complete." Even in giving you the benefit of the doubt, since we all make mistakes, there is still an additional responsibility you abdicated which cannot be overlooked. According to Canon 3(C)(2) states, “A judge should keep informed about the judge’s personal and fiduciary financial interests and make a reasonable effort to keep informed about the personal financial interests of the judge’s spouse." There exists a duty on your part, given the nature of your position, which compels you to remain abreast of all household financial interests so that you will know when disqualification or recusal are warranted. It is simply not acceptable for years of pertinent data that relate to potential instances of conflicts of interest to have gone undeclared. All told, over $1.6 million in household income was unaccounted for and 13 years of potential conflicts of interest went unacknowledged.This does not uphold public confidence in the integrity of the court; rather, it undermines the institution.
The circumstances surrounding your involvement with the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission case again displays your apparent indifference toward the public’s perception of your impartiality. In 1991 an advocacy advertisement entitled “Who Will Judge the Judges?” aired in select markets pushing your nomination for the Supreme Court and highlighted the hypocrisy of Senators Biden and Kennedy. That ad was paid for by Citizens United and, according to Time magazine, allegedly cost $100,000. At no time have you acknowledged the suitability of hearing a case where the plaintiff promoted your ascension to the Supreme Court despite repeated questioning from advocacy organizations.
Even more troubling with your involvement in Citizens United v FEC is the fact that during the Court's deliberation your spouse was soliciting donations as President and CEO of her nonprofit, Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization - just like Citizens United - which stood to gain from the deregulating of campaign finance rules concerning how 501(c)(4)s could engage in express political advocacy and where their funding could come from. For instance, the majority opinion which you signed on to invalidated the Wellstone Amendment which regulated the ways in which nonprofit corporations could engage in electioneering. Lifting the ban on independent expenditures 30 days from a primary or 60 days from a general election increased the scope and value of 501(c)(4) organizations like the one your spouse was in charge of. From September to December of 2009 Liberty Central reported raising $550,000. The Court ruled on January 21, 2010 in favor of Citizens United, thereby increasing the potency of non-disclosing, politically engaged nonprofits. This is a clear violation of several canons of judicial ethics and may well constitute an abridgment of due process. Canon 2(A) states, "A judge [...] should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
Within this horizon of ethical latitude, one wonders what exactly would qualify in your view as the appearance of favoritism or bias when a relative within the third-degree is raising money and capitalizing off of the very jurisprudence you are helping to craft?
The transgressions have continued unabated because for the last three years, 2010, 2011, and 2012, you have listed the for-profit Liberty Consulting on your financial disclosure forms as both a source of employment for your spouse and an investment of up to $15,000 within your household. Probity insists that this is unacceptable for a member of the Supreme Court. Not only are you eschewing rules against holding "litigation sensitive" investments but earlier this year your lack of sound judgment impacted the Court in similar ways as your fraught involvement with Citizens United v FEC did. On June 25, 2012 you signed on to the majority opinion of American Tradition Partnership v Bullock, which effectively applied the holdings from Citizens United v FEC to the states. To a reasonable observer knowledgeable of all the relevant facts, it would appear that holding a household investment within the third-degree, which boasts of for a fee providing "advice on optimizing political investments for charitable giving in the non-profit world or political causes" at the same time as allowing corporations to more effectively engage in electioneering is a conflict of interest. In April of 2014, you participated in a conference in which Iowa Right to Life v Tooker was denied cert -- a case involving the ability of corporations, like Liberty Consulting, to directly contribute to campaigns in a similar way the Court recently decided in McCutcheon v FEC. Liberty Consulting is an explicitly political organization which would benefit from expanded deregulation that gives for-profit companies greater influence in donating to candidates. Just like Liberty Central, its donors can remain anonymous and there is even less transparency in a for-profit corporation than in a nonprofit. The habitual disregard for the appearance of bias or the prevalence of actual bias in these cases in which your household financial stakes conflict with your role as an impartial arbiter is simply unacceptable.
Furthermore, you have abused the prestige of your office by allowing others to use your name and title to advance their own political interests. You are named in the fundraising materials for a Koch Industries bi-annual retreat where it is reported that millions of dollars are pledged to various political causes. It is incumbent on judges to take adequate precautions to ensure their names are not used to solicit money from individuals, or to appear to endorse the political activity of individuals or groups. In the commentary to Canon 2(B) it states, "A judge should avoid lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others."
These examples are demonstrative of a lack of judgment and accountability, and a deferral of responsibility which creates a pattern of inaccuracies. No one wants to see the nation's highest court as a locus of controversy. Yet, no one wants to see incorrigibility and fecklessness continuing unabated either.
In that same interview with Julian Bond, you quote Justice Powell as saying to you, “When you reach a point where you think you belong here, it is time for you to leave.” Those of us who have signed this petition believe it is time to leave.
Justice Thomas, do you think you belong here?
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