May 4, 2023

Whitehouse Reups Calls for Chief Justice to Investigate and for Congress to Pass SCERT Act After Yet Another Serious Report About Justice Thomas’s Apparent Ethical Failures

Whitehouse’s SCERT Act would require SCOTUS to adopt stricter disclosure rules and enact a process for investigating a justice’s misconduct

Washington, DC – Following yet another ProPublica report on the extraordinary undisclosed financial relationship between Justice Clarence Thomas and Republican billionaire Harlan Crow, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today reiterated his previous calls for the Chief Justice of the United States to investigate ethical misconduct at the Supreme Court and for Congress to pass Whitehouse’s legislation to clean up the ethics mess at the Court.  ProPublica reported today that Crow covered private school tuition costs for Justice Thomas’s family member, which the Justice did not disclose.

“Justice Thomas received free vacations, rent for his mother, extravagant jet and yacht travel, and now we’ve learned, private school tuition for a family member.  All undisclosed, all while the billionaire donor was also involved in funding right-wing influence efforts.  Other federal judges know this is horribly wrong.  State and county and federal employees across the country who operate under real ethics codes and processes know this is horribly wrong,” said Whitehouse.

Today’s story follows two other bombshell ProPublica reports exposing that Justice Thomas and his wife accepted extravagant vacations on Crow’s dime, including individual trips worth as much as $500,000, and that Crow purchased several properties from Justice Thomas in 2014.  Justice Thomas did not disclose the real estate sales on his financial disclosure forms as clearly required by law.  Whitehouse has previously called on the Judicial Conference to refer Justice Thomas to the U.S. Attorney General for potential violations of the Ethics in Government Act under 5 U.S.C. 13106, and has called for the Chief Justice of the United States to launch an ethics investigation into Justice Thomas’s financial relationship with Crow and apparent disregard for disclosure laws. 

“The Court has closed itself up like a turtle, pretending this is all okay.  It’s not okay and it’s on the Chief Justice to act.  If Chief Justice Roberts continues to duck, Congress should pass my SCERT Act to help restore the American people’s badly shaken trust in the Supreme Court,” added Whitehouse.

In February, Whitehouse reintroduced the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act, comprehensive legislation that would create a much-needed process for investigating misconduct at the Supreme Court, strengthen recusal standards for judges and disclosure rules for special interests trying to influence the courts, improve disclosure of gifts and travel for judges, and mandate the creation of a binding code of ethics.  The SCERT Act would require the Supreme Court to adopt disclosure rules for gifts, travel, and income that are at least as rigorous as ethics rules for members of Congress.  The New York Times editorial board recently endorsed the legislation.

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921