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"An Ethics Scandal for the Ages"

Fix the Court’s Gabe Roth released this statement following news that Harlan Crow purchased Thomas’ childhood home from Thomas and his family but Thomas did not report said purchase on his financial disclosure.

“Today’s news again confirms that we are long past the point of hoping the Court fixes itself. This is an ethics scandal for the ages, and that’s why Fix the Court is calling for two discrete steps to move the fact-finding forward:

“First, Attorney General Garland should announce that he will appoint a special counsel to investigate the Thomas-Crow real estate transaction, the free trips and gifts the real estate magnate has bestowed on the justice over the last 25 years and any other potential violations of the disclosure and recusal laws Thomas may have made since joining the Court.

“The financial disclosure law permits the AG to ‘bring a civil action […] against any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies […] any information that such individual is required to report’ on their disclosure, but given the frequency with which DOJ finds itself before the Court, not to mention Garland’s own history as a SCOTUS nominee and a former leader in the Judicial Conference, he should delegate any pre-civil action investigation to as neutral a third party as possible, namely, a special counsel.

“Second, though Fix the Court believes that Congress has the power to subpoena a justice, it’s unlikely Justice Thomas would comply with a subpoena, and we’d lose precious years in an ensuing separation-of-powers battle. But there are two people who are not justices who Congress should subpoena immediately: Harlan Crow, for obvious reasons, and Perry Thompson, the Supreme Court administrator who served not only as the notary for the Thomas-Crow real estate transaction but also was a conduit between Rev. Schenck and Supreme Court justices during Schenck’s infamous ‘Operation Higher Court.’ Additional subpoenas could follow.

“Finally, please do not presume that Chief Justice Roberts, just because ‘Chief Justice’ is in his title, will do anything here. Questions about his leadership capabilities aside, it’s likely that Roberts lacks the authority or ability to launch an investigation absent support from all eight of his colleagues, which, so long as Thomas remains one, he will never have. I also don’t believe the ‘Judicial Conference,’ even as it’s empowered in statute (5 U.S.C. §13106(b)), will refer Thomas for an investigation either, seeing as how the Conference comprises lower court judges. This puts additional, albeit warranted, pressure on Congress and the Attorney General.”

Next week, FTC will be releasing a blueprint for the types of laws Congress should write to require more disclosure from the justices on gifts and travel. For now, please enjoy the following fact sheet, prepared by FTC’s Elise Spenner and Gabe Roth, that more clearly than anywhere we’ve seen on the Internet compares and contrasts the travel and gift reporting rules for the justices and members of Congress.

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