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Thomas Should Avoid “Public Association with Advocacy Group,” Ethicist Says

Justice Clarence Thomas has been no stranger to fundraising events while a member of the Supreme Court, especially those for conservative causes.

Thomas headlined a 1993 dinner for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, whose prices of admission was $100 per seat – $250 if you wanted to attend a private reception with Thomas. Also that year, Thomas made a satellite TV appearance to praise a conservative leader, Paul Weyrich, around the time Weyrich filed a brief in a church-and-state case before he justices. (Thomas did not recuse in that case.)

Since Supreme Court justices are not required to follow the judicial code of conduct, these appearances have no real world consequences for Thomas. (Fix the Court, of course, believes the code should apply to the court.)

What’s interesting about these episodes though, according to renowned legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers of NYU, is not the fact that Thomas attended at all but that “a public association with an advocacy group might cause him to come to be identified in the public mind with that group.”

And it’s clear no Supreme Court justice should be associated with any one group. Besides the Supreme Court itself, that is.

Fix the Court is calling on Chief Justice Roberts and his colleagues to formally adopt the code of ethics – called the Code of Conduct for United States Judges – that all other federal judges are required to follow. Should they demur, we believe Congress has the authority to compel the justices to adopt the code.

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