Dear Progressive Ally,
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, already in hot water over failing to report his wife’s income on judicial disclosure forms, is now being called on by 74 members of Congress, led by Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, to recuse himself from hearing cases on the health care reform law.
It’s really pretty simple. Justice Thomas’ wife Ginni has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars working for and leading groups that have repealing health care reform as one of their chief goals. And considering challenges to the health care law are expected to make it to the Supreme Court, how could that not be a major conflict of interest?
Rep. Weiner and his colleagues are absolutely correct that Justice Thomas should recuse himself.
Challenges to the health care reform law have been largely unsuccessful, but two judges have ruled at least one part of the bill unconstitutional, making it very likely that the challenge will make its way to the Supreme Court.
The court challenges to health care reform are really more political than legal, and the tortured logic used by the judges who have ruled it unconstitutional ignores the text and history of our Constitution, as well as firmly established case law going back to the Supreme Court of the early 1800s. Despite right-wing Supreme Court justices’ willingness to contort the law to suit their ideology -- see the their controversial decisions in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United v. FEC, both of which had Justice Thomas in the majority -- most legal experts agree that the health care reform law is perfectly constitutional and under no real threat of being ruled otherwise. But outcomes aside, the Thomas family’s profits from efforts to repeal health care reform clearly mean that Justice Thomas should not hear and decide cases about that law.
Ginni Thomas is now a lobbyist, advertising herself to potential clients interested in health care reform as someone with the “experience and connections” to get the job done. Justice Clarence Thomas should honor his office by acknowledge this obvious conflict of interest and recusing himself.
-- Ben Betz, Online Strategy Manager
P.S. Justice Thomas recently suggested in a speech that criticism of him and discussion of his apparent conflicts of interest amount to an attack on the Supreme Court as an institution. Justice Thomas needs to put aside such arrogance and realize that by recusing himself he can remove the appearance of impropriety and truly protect the country's High Court.
Here's the text of the letter:
Dear Justice Thomas:
As an Associate Justice, you are entrusted with the responsibility to exercise the highest degree of discretion and impartiality when deciding a case. As Members of Congress, we were surprised by recent revelations of your financial ties to leading organizations dedicated to lobbying against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We write today to respectfully ask that you maintain the integrity of this court and recuse yourself from any deliberations on the constitutionality of this act.
The appearance of a conflict of interest merits recusal under federal law. From what we have already seen, the line between your impartiality and you and your wife's financial stake in the overturn of health care reform is blurred. Your spouse is advertising herself as a lobbyist who has "experience and connections and appeals to clients who want a particular decision -- they want to overturn health care reform. Moreover, your failure to disclose Ginny Thomas's receipt of $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, a prominent opponent of health care reform, between 2003 and 2007 has raised great concern.
This is not the first case where your impartiality was in question. As Common Cause points out, you participated in secretive political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the [5-4] decision on the Citizens United case. Your spouse also received an undisclosed salary paid for by undisclosed donors as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that stood to benefit from the decision and played an active role in the 2010 elections.
Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household's financial gain through your spouse's activities and your role as a Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the U.S. Supreme Court's decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path.
We appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this request.
ANTHONY D. WEINER
Member of Congress
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