Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the ethics revelations surrounding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the various controversies surrounding the Supreme Court compromised its integrity.
“Most people would jump to the conclusion that this tangled web around Judge Clarence Thomas is getting worse and worse by the day,” Durbin said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I don’t know what will happen after that. I thought I had heard everything.”
Judge Clarence Thomas and the Supreme Court as a whole are dogged by ethical concerns after ProPublica initially reported on Thomas’s relationship with billionaire and GOP mega-donor Harlan Crow.
Durbin said the discoveries embarrass him, but “the question is whether it embarrasses the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice.”
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Clarence Thomas scandals reignite, calling for Supreme Court code of ethics
The scandals have again called on the nine Supreme Court justices to abide by a code of conduct. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on ethics reform at the Supreme Court last Tuesday, where Democrats and Republicans squabbled over whether Congress itself should step in to implement stricter ethics rules for the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has no code of conduct, unlike the courts below it, which require judges of lower federal courts to follow a code of ethics to “avoid all impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”
Durbin requested that Chief Justice John Roberts voluntarily testify before the commission in April, but Roberts declined the invitation, citing concerns over separation of powers.
“Chief Justice Roberts has the power to change this first thing tomorrow morning. He could announce a code of conduct to the court and finally mean something,” Durbin said. “He may even announce that the court will in any case be subject to the minimum standards that apply to all federal judges.”
Durbin vowed that “everything is on the table,” including subpoenaing Crow and other figures in the ethics scandals in his commission’s future work.
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Durbin on Clarence Thomas discoveries: ‘It just destroys the integrity of the court’
The Supreme Court has come under intense scrutiny after revelations about Thomas’s relationship with Crow, which initially began with findings that Thomas accepted multiple lavish gifts from Crow, including travel on his private jet and yacht. Thomas did not disclose these gifts in a possible violation of federal disclosure laws.
Crow also bought three Georgia properties from Thomas and his relatives in 2014 and paid for Thomas’ second cousin’s private boarding school fees, both of which Thomas has not disclosed, ProPublica reported.
The ethical controversies extend to Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a prominent conservative activist. A conservative legal activist, Leonard Leo, arranged tens of thousands of dollars in fees for consulting work for Ginni Thomas more than a decade ago and instructed her to keep her name off the paperwork, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
“You shouldn’t let that sort of thing happen in America’s Supreme Court. It just destroys the integrity of the court,” Durbin said of the discoveries.
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