Justice Thomas took a trip in 2004 aboard a private jet to an exclusive Northern California club “arranged by a wealthy Texas real estate investor who helped run an advocacy group that filed briefs with the Supreme Court.”
In 2011 the Justice Department was asked to investigate whether Justice Thomas should have recused himself from Citizens United v. FEC, a campaign finance case, because he attended an all-expenses-paid retreat organized by the Koch brothers, who support groups that clearly stood to benefit from the court’s decision in that case.
The Supreme Court does not require justices to explain the reasons for their recusals, but it’s clear why this opaque practice must end. While we do not assume Justice Thomas all of the justices to be acting improperly on a regular basis, there is no reason for them to hide behind this antiquated practice that leave the media and members of the public guessing if and when a justice has a potential conflict of interest.
Fix the Court is calling on Chief Justice Roberts to establish a formal recusal reporting procedure in which justices would submit the reason for their recusal to the court’s Public Information Office, which would then post the reason on the court’s website. And we’re calling on the court to make it easier for attorneys and members of the public to file a request for recusal in any case.