Senior U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf is scheduled to appear before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. It comes as a series of revelations about Thomas have fueled calls for stricter ethics rules for the Supreme Court.
Among them was the revelation by ProPublica that Thomas for years accepted luxury trips paid for by billionaire Harlan Crow, a Republican donor, without disclosing them. Thomas has said he was not required to disclose the trips.
Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, has sought information about how complaints against Thomas more than a decade ago were handled in light of the recent reports about Thomas.
Wolf, a former member of the U.S. Judicial Conference, the U.S. court system's leadership body, repeatedly questioned in 2012 why members were not receiving information about complaints filed against Thomas and how they had been resolved, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.
Newsweek reached out to a Supreme Court spokesperson via email for comment from Thomas.
The year before, Democratic lawmakers and public interest groups had filed complaints with the Judicial Conference after reports that Thomas did not disclose years of income earned by his wife, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, a conservative activist.
"In other words, Justice Thomas's transgressions remained known only to the small group of judges on the committee—they were never reported out to the full conference," former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance noted in a Substack post. "Because only the full conference is permitted to make referrals to the Attorney General, nothing else happened. The process was cut off."
Vance said even if Thomas was not aware of his obligations back then, "he is most certainly aware of them now."
That "brings into sharp focus allegations that he continued to accept and failed to disclose significant benefits from people who were not entirely disinterested in the work of the Court," she added.
But US District Judge Mark Wolf, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, said on Wednesday that the full Judicial Conference did not receive notice of the complaints sent to leaders of the conference and therefore couldn’t decide how the body should act on them.
“This concerned me because the issues raised by the letters were serious,” Wolf said in testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee looking into court ethics.
“Pursuant to established conference policies and procedures, if the committee (on financial disclosures) had considered the letters, my colleagues on the Judicial Conference and I should have been informed of them in its reports to the Conference, even if the committee was not recommending any action by the Conference,” he said.
“Such information would have afforded me and the other members of the conference the opportunity to discuss and decide whether there was reasonable cause to believe Justice Thomas had willfully violated the act and, if so, to make the required referral to the attorney general,” Wolf added.
In a six-page letter shared with TPM on Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee chairman reupped questions he’d asked in April, while responding to a May 8 letter from Crow’s attorney Michael D. Bopp.
Bopp argued that Congress had neither the legislative purpose nor authority to ask for the information requested from Crow. Wyden slapped down that argument in response.
“These assertions are without merit,” he wrote. “A cursory review of the Committee’s activities demonstrates longstanding oversight and legislative interests in gift and estate tax laws.”
The Oregon Democrat went on to deconstruct Bopp’s claims before reiterating his prior request for details from Crow. “It goes without saying, but Mr. Crow is not a branch of government,” Wyden said in a separate statement. “My hope is that with the issue of committee jurisdiction settled, Mr. Crow provides answers to the questions I’ve put before him a second time.”
He concluded that Bopp’s argument does not align with established tax law—but not without sneaking in a jab at Crow himself.
“If Mr. Crow needs any further clarification, he might find it helpful to refer to the considerable amount of analysis his own law firm has done on the committee’s tax policy work,” Wyden said in his statement.
This all comes after ProPublica released a bombshell investigation on April 6 revealing that Thomas had received international trips from Crow, a Texas real estate magnate who’s donated millions of dollars to conservative causes. It was later revealed that Crow had also bought three properties from Thomas, deals the justice never reported, including the house Thomas’ mother reportedly still lives in.
We have an illegitimate Supreme Court.
"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Anti-LGBTQ Christian nationalist Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) recently gave a speech telling Christians to “rise up” and put “God back at the center of our country.” She also said that LGBTQ people have created a national “identity crisis” for children and families by “spitting in God’s face” and perverting his creation.
Boebert made her comments last weekend at the three-day conference hosted by Truth and Liberty Coalition, a Christian nationalist organization that believes the U.S. must be a rigidly Christian nation. The organization was founded by far-right preacher Andrew Wommack, and the event was hosted at Wommack’s Charis Bible College in Woodland Park, Colorado.
Republican Colorado representative Lauren Boebert has suggested that children in public schools should be forced to undergo “biblical citizenship training”.
Boebert’s chilling comments were made on an episode of FlashPoint, a Christian news show which airs on the Victory Channel, owned by the anti-LGBTQ+ televangelist Kenneth Copeland.
The Colorado Republican and gun rights activist, who has previously said that LGBTQ+ people should be banned from coming out before the age of 21, discussed the upcoming midterm elections and said Republicans must prove that they will “get America rolling again”.
She added: “Maybe we need to have some sort of legislation that requires… biblical citizenship training in our schools. And that’s how we get things turned around.”
Citing a "crisis of legitimacy" they say is plaguing the U.S. Supreme Court, a group of congressional Democrats on Tuesday reintroduced legislation aimed at thwarting Republican attacks on democracy by expanding the nation's top court from nine to 13 justices.
Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Judiciary Act outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where they held a press conference.
"The nation's highest court today faces a crisis of legitimacy that began when Senate Republicans first abandoned norms and precedent to block the confirmation of then-President [Barack] Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, only to later ram through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett a mere 10 days before Election Day 2020, and while millions of Americans were already casting ballots," the lawmakers said in a statement.
"The stolen, far-right Supreme Court majority has since ruled to destroy 50 years of settled precedent by rolling back the fundamental right to abortion care in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization and has become the subject of scandal, including new and resurfaced reports of Justice Clarence Thomas' failure to disclose gifts provided to him by billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow and his spouse's more than $680,000 in unreported income from the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation," the statement noted.
Markey contended that "Republicans have hijacked the confirmation process and stolen the Supreme Court majority—all to appeal to far-right judicial activists who for years have wanted to wield the gavel to roll back fundamental rights."
"Each scandal uncovered, each norm broken, each precedent-shattering ruling delivered is a reminder that we must restore justice and balance to the rogue, radical Supreme Court," he argued. "It is time we expand the court."
Johnson said that "it's easy to take for granted that the number of justices on the Supreme Court must be nine. But it is not written in the Constitution and has changed seven times over the course of our nation's history."
Notice on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Stabilization of Iraq
On May 22, 2003, by Executive Order 13303, the President declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq.
The obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13290 of March 20, 2003, Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, and Executive Order 13668 of May 27, 2014, must continue in effect beyond May 22, 2023. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303.
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
THE WHITE HOUSE,
May 16, 2023.