Hold Justice Clarence Thomas Accountable for Defying the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges

To: Chief Justice John Roberts, United States Supreme Court

Hold Justice Clarence Thomas Accountable for Defying the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges
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Campaign created by Louise Slaughter Icon-email

Campaign created by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

We respectfully urge you to issue a letter of reprimand for Justice Thomas and to publish an official court policy on the ethics issue concerning Justice Thomas' decision to agree to headline a political fundraising dinner.  To increase transparency and accountability in the activities of the Supreme Court justices, we also urge the Supreme Court to adopt its own code of conduct that includes the five canons of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges.

Why is this important?

On Thursday, November 14, 2013 Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas headlined a fundraiser for the Federalist Society- a conservative think tank that is connected to the most powerful conservatives in Washington. 
 
By helping to raise funds for the Federalist Society, Justice Thomas is in clear violation of Canon 4C of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, which bars federal judges from using the prestige of their judicial office for fundraising purposes and specifically states that, “a judge may not be a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program” of a fundraising event. While the Supreme Court has exempted itself from the code, Chief Justice Roberts has said that the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges "plays the same role" for the Supreme Court as it does for other federal judges. 

In recent years, some members of the Supreme Court have repeatedly engaged in ethically dubious conduct that endangers the neutrality and transparency of the court. In 2012, Justice Antonin Scalia accepted an all-expenses paid trip to meet with the shadowy conservative group “Friends of Abe," which has been described as “the most important source of underground political activism in Hollywood today.” Previously, Justices Scalia and Thomas have attended exclusive meetings organized by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, longtime financial supporters of conservative political causes. Finally, between 1997 and 2007, Justice Thomas repeatedly failed to disclose at least $1.6 million in income received by his wife from her employers - including some employers that have petitioned the Supreme Court.
 
The binding Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges currently applies to all United States judges except the nine members of the Supreme Court.  This code provides a clear explanation of proper judicial behavior and is used to ensure that judges are held accountable for any unethical action. For example, in 2009 the Code of Conduct was used to force the recusal of Judge Loren Smith from a case involving big oil companies after it was discovered that his wife owned shares of stock in one of the oil companies involved in the case. 

It is vital that Justice Thomas be held accountable for defying the Code of Conduct, and that Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts formally applies the Code of Conduct to the Supreme Court today.

Together with the legal advocacy groups Alliance for Justice and Common Cause, I have sent a letter of complaint about Justice Thomas’ conduct to Supreme court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Trust in our courts is important- their decisions have the potential to affect every American, and for their rulings to be taken seriously, the American people must trust in the transparency and neutrality of our courts.
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