Will Rep. Boswell hold Clarence Thomas accountable?


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Tell Rep. Boswell: Call for a House investigation of Clarence Thomas' latest ethics violations.

Is Rep. Boswell holding Clarence Thomas accountable?
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"Please sign Rep. Chris Murphy's letter asking the House Judiciary Committee to investigate recent actions of Clarence Thomas and to consider extending the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct for all federal judges to members of the U.S. Supreme Court."

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Dear Friend,

Nearly 200,000 people have signed our petition calling for the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. And we're making waves in Washington. Thanks to your activism, momentum is building behind an effort to hold Clarence Thomas accountable for his blatant disregard for the Judicial Code of Conduct.

Just yesterday, Congressman Chris Murphy penned a "dear colleague" letter, asking his fellow Members of Congress to sign on to an urgent request to Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. This letter, spurred by the recent New York Times expose of Clarence Thomas' unethical relationship with rightwing funder and activist Harlan Crow, urges the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on escalating reports of unethical behavior by Supreme Court Justices.

Unfortunately, as of this morning, your member of Congress Rep. Leonard Boswell has not yet signed on to Rep. Murphy's letter to the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Tell Rep. Boswell: Sign Rep. Chris Murphy's letter asking the House Judiciary Committee to investigate recent actions of Clarence Thomas and to consider extending the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct for all federal judges to members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Shockingly, the Supreme Court is not legally bound by the code of conduct for federal judges, though Justices Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy have testified to Congress that members of the Supreme Court voluntarily follow the code that explicitly prohibits justices from directly soliciting charitable donations.

It's not acceptable that Clarence Thomas and the U.S. Supreme Court are essentially above the law when it comes to ethics standards. That's why Rep. Christopher Murphy has introduced the Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act.

Under this bill, the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct that governs the ethical behavior of federal judges would also apply to Clarence Thomas and the rest of the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas would no longer be able to attend blatantly political events, participate in fundraising events or accept gifts by individuals or groups with business before the court.

Tell Rep. Boswell: Sign Rep. Chris Murphy's letter asking the House Judiciary Committee to investigate recent actions of Clarence Thomas and to consider extending the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct for all federal judges to members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

We know letters like this can make a difference. When a Member of Congress like Chris Murphy takes a stand on a progressive issue, it gets more notice from the press, from his colleagues, and ultimately in this case from the members of the Supreme Court. We need to help Rep. Murphy get as many signatures on his letter as possible before he delivers it to the House Judiciary Committee next week. There is no reason why Rep. Boswell should not support this effort and put his name on the letter.

Here is the letter from Rep. Chris Murphy:

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Conyers:

We write to you today to ask that you hold a hearing on HR 862, the Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act. This commonsense bill would go a long way towards restoring the public's confidence in the Supreme Court after several recent questionable actions by some of its members.

The Supreme Court must be a neutral arbiter that acts without bias or prejudice. We the people created our Constitution to "establish justice," and the promise that Supreme Court justices abide by the rule of law and not political influence or ideology is at the foundation of who we are as a country.

This bedrock principle is important with the prospect that the Supreme Court will eventually rule on the constitutionality of legislation debated by this Congress, like the Affordable Care Act. Whatever the justices decide, the legitimacy of their decisions depend on whether the American people believe them to be impartial and above any particular political or financial interests.

Yet, there have been alarming reports of justices — most notably Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — attending political events and using their position to fundraise for organizations. These activities would be prohibited if the justices were required to abide by the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct, which currently applies to all other federal judges. On these issues the code is quite clear. Canon 4C states that "a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of the judicial office for that purpose." Additionally, in Canon 5 the code states, "[a] judge must refrain from all political activity." While we understand that the Supreme Court is unique by its very nature, we do not believe there should be one set of guidelines for Supreme Court justices and stricter standards for all others judges.

The Supreme Court possesses the incredible power to interpret or even strike down laws they deem inconsistent with the Constitution. America trusts them with this power because justices must come to each case without a personal or financial stake in the outcome. Recent revelations about Justice Thomas accepting tens of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts from individuals and organizations who often have an interest in matters before the courts calls into question the Court's impartiality. Canon 4D of the Code of Conduct incorporates regulations providing that "[a] judicial officer or employee shall not accept a gift from anyone who is seeking official action from or doing business with the court." Yet Justice Thomas received a gift valued at $15,000 from an organization that had a brief pending before his Court at the very moment they gave him the gift. Incidents such as these undermine the integrity of the entire judiciary, and they should not be allowed to continue.

The Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act was introduced to shine a light on these issues. First, it would apply the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct, which applies to all other federaljudges, to Supreme Court Justices. Currently, the justices only look to this standard as "guidance". Second, the bill would require Supreme Court justices to publicly disclose their reasoning behind a recusal when they withdraw from a case and when they refuse to recuse themselves after a motion is made for them to do so. Lastly, it would require the Judicial Conference to develop a process to review decisions by justices who have refused to step aside from a case.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants". It is time that we apply that same ideal to the Supreme Court. Again, we urge you to schedule a hearing on HR 862, to help restore the public's faith in our judicial system and to guarantee the integrity of our country's highest court.

Sincerely,
Rep. Christopher Murphy (D-CT)

Tell Rep. Boswell: Sign Rep. Chris Murphy's letter asking the House Judiciary Committee to investigate recent actions of Clarence Thomas and to consider extending the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct for all federal judges to members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

It's important to build on the momentum created by the recent New York Times expose that detailed the improper ties between Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and influential rightwing funder and activist Harlan Crow.1

Crow is a major contributor to conservative causes and a stalwart supporter of Clarence Thomas. In past years he gave Thomas' wife, Ginni Thomas, $500,000 to exploit the Citizens United decision and start a shadowy, Tea Party-related group called Liberty Central.2 He gave Thomas a Bible (estimated value $15,000) that once belonged to Frederick Douglass, and reportedly provided the Supreme Court Justice with access to his yacht and private jet.

As if that wasn't enough, the New York Times has revealed that Thomas solicited a multi-million dollar donation from Crow to benefit one of his own pet projects near his birthplace in a remote coastal community outside Savannah, Georgia.

We must not pass up this chance to hold Clarence Thomas accountable. Rep. Christopher Murphy's call for an investigation by the House Judiciary and his bill to add ethics rules with teeth to the Supreme Court is an important next step.

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets


1. Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics, New York Times, June 19, 2011.
2. Justice Thomas's wife now lobbyist, Politico, February 4, 2011.


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