THOMPSON: The parallel universe that is the Republican dominated US Supreme court
OPINION Those who doubt that wealth is the single most important factor when it comes to fairness and justice in the United States, should probably take a hard look at the life and times of Clarence Thomas. Thomas - a U.S. Supreme Court justice since 1991 - could not have done...
Those who doubt that wealth is the single most important factor when it comes to fairness and justice in the United States, should probably take a hard look at the life and times of Clarence Thomas.
Thomas - a U.S. Supreme Court justice since 1991 - could not have done better for himself had he won the “The Price Is Right” showcase. Indeed, no game show could match the bounty Justice Thomas has garnered in 32 years as a Supreme Court Justice from those seeking his favour.
In Bob Barker-fashion, “Don, tell us what Justice Thomas has won!”
“Well, Bob, it’s quite a haul!”
Justice Thomas has won at least 38 “destination vacations,” 26 private jet flights, enumerable VIP sports passes, helicopter flights, stays at private resorts, and a “standing invitation” to join an exclusive, private golf club…and he’s still playing…the reigning champion.
The odd thing about this game…Justice Thomas didn’t report any of this…not to the Internal Revenue Service…not to the U.S. Congress…not to his fellow justices…and not to those overseeing Supreme Court ethics and Code of Conduct.
Oops…my bad…there is no oversight of Supreme Court Justices. Unlike every other judge in every court in the U.S., the Supreme Court has no Code of Conduct. They are left to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong…and none has ever found themselves in the wrong.
Chief Justice John Roberts brushed away a mountain of evidence of wrongdoing with a simple, well, actually he had no response at all six months ago. Crickets.
How times have changed. Ten years ago, the chief justice turned down an invitation to speak to a group of corporate lawyers in California, returning the first-edition of a 19th-century legal document that came with the formal invitation.
“It is a wonderful volume, but I am afraid that ethical constraints prevent me from accepting it,” Roberts wrote, according to The Washington Post. That was before Republicans - chiefly Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump - completely politicized the highest court in America.
The lack of ethics infection has spread…to other Right Wingers nominated and approved by Republicans. For example, Justice Samuel Alito refused to recuse himself in a tax case being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court…despite the fact that the lawyer arguing the case - David Rivkin - interviewed Justice Alito for hours and co-authored an extremely favourable article for The Wall Street Journal less than two months before.
It is hardly coincidence that Rivkin - also a lawyer for Leonard Leo, conservative activist and long-time executive in the Right Wing Federalist Society - waxed eloquently in the article…praising Judge Alito’s candour and dismissing ethics concerns about the court.
What parallel universe do Conservative Republicans live in (my outrage stripping me of my rule about ending a sentence with a preposition)?
Just consider what investigative reporters have found about Justice Thomas beyond the bounty mentioned earlier.
Thomas - a member of the Horatio Alger Association, which exists to prove the American dream remains attainable - has for decades accepted gifts from wealthy and powerful friends who also belong to this elite group. Some of these folks have had business before the Supreme Court. And Thomas sees no problem being the recipient of luxury trips…or even a Super Bowl ring.
Billionaire friend Harlan Crow - not a friend until Thomas was on the Supreme Court - paid tuition for Thomas’ grandnephew, Mark Martin, at two schools for two years 20 years ago. The tab was $6,000 per month at one of the schools…none of which was disclosed.
It is the Right-leaning Conservatives - like those in Congress - who seem intent on undermining Democracy. Not only have Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Barrett and Kavanaugh - the latter three Trump appointments - go against American majorities overturning precedent rulings like Roe v. Wade…they tend to walk a fine line of ethics…often crossing it.
One of the peculiarities of the U.S. Supreme Court is that its nine judges are the only judges among the thousands of county, state and Federal judges in America who…well, are left to make it up as they go along when it some to ethics. Trust me…I’ll do the right thing?
Those not willing to buy swampland in Florida or that big bridge in New York City need some assurances…because the Conservative Supreme Court judges show no signs of doing the right thing.
Of course, there’s an existing U.S. law that states directly that “any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
But in matters of recusal, for example, the Supreme Court relies on tradition…a 1945 case, Jewell Ridge Coal Corporation v. Local No. 6167, set the tone. Justice Robert Jackson suggested that it has always “been considered the responsibility of each Justice to determine for himself the propriety of withdrawing in any particular circumstances.”
Perhaps if there weren’t so many ethical lapses on the Court…maybe we could let this leap-of-faith ruling ride. But a fox guarding the hen house has rarely been a workable solution…anywhere. The Court is beyond the reach of Congress, the president, the people…and the law. Does that sound right in a democracy?
The Court needs to rid itself of transgressors - Thomas at the very least - which is something Conservatives will never do…despite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing.
Failing that, the Supreme Court needs to end the practice of individual justices deciding when they ought to decline to hear cases. And, they need to insist that federal law be uniformly interpreted for the entire Supreme Court…just like every other judicial arbiter across America.
— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.
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