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100 Former Clerks of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Speak Out

More than 100 former clerks for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas signed an open letter defending his independence and integrity amid media reports that suggest he received improper gifts from a Texas billionaire.

“As his law clerks, we offer this response. Different paths led us to our year with Justice Thomas, and we have followed different paths since. But along the way, we all saw with our own eyes the same thing: His integrity is unimpeachable,” their letter said (pdf).

The 112 individuals who signed the letter include three circuit court judges, including Judge David Stras of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Judge James Ho of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Judge Allison Rushing of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

“And these stories are malicious, perpetuating the ugly assumption that the Justice cannot think for himself. They are part of a larger attack on the Court and its legitimacy as an institution,” the letter also stated. “The picture they paint of the Court and the man for whom we worked bears no resemblance to reality.”

“As his law clerks, we offer this response,” it also said, referring to the media reports about Justice Thomas. “His independence is unshakable, deeply rooted seven decades ago as that young child who walked through the door of his grandparents’ house for a life forever changed,” they continued.

The former clerks then described Justice Thomas’ upbringing in Alabama and how he was destined to become a priest before the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, which made him decide to pursue law instead.

“He is a man of unwavering principle. He welcomes the lone dissent. He is also a man of great humor and warmth and generosity. Walk the halls, and you’ll hear his laugh. Call, and he answers,” the letter continued. “His grandfather’s sayings become our sayings. His chambers become our chambers—a place fueled by unstoppable curiosity and unreturned library books, all to get every case just right.”

The letter went on to make reference to Justice Thomas’s upbringing and education, how he was changed by life in the segregated South, and how he had been destined for the priesthood before the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. led him to the law instead.

Reports from ProPublica, a left-leaning media outlet, have claimed that the Supreme Court justice accepted at least 38 vacations, 26 private jet flights, 12 VIP passes to sporting events, and two resort trips during his time as a justice.

“While some of the hospitality, such as stays in personal homes, may not have required disclosure, Thomas appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises and expensive sports tickets, according to ethics experts,” the report in August said.

But the letter, in addressing those reports, asserted that they’re part of a broader series of attacks on the Supreme Court itself.

“Lately, the stories have questioned his integrity and his ethics for the friends he keeps. They bury the lede. These friends are not parties before him as a Justice of the Court. And these stories are malicious, perpetuating the ugly assumption that the Justice cannot think for himself,” the letter said, according to Fox News, which obtained the document. “They are part of a larger attack on the Court and its legitimacy as an institution. The picture they paint of the Court and the man for whom we worked bears no resemblance to reality.”

Congressional Democrats have said the reports call into question whether Justice Thomas followed the high court’s ethics rules and have vowed to make changes to the Supreme Court. They have also called on the associate justice, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush, to recuse himself from certain cases.

“Justice Thomas has brought shame upon himself and the United States Supreme Court with his acceptance of massive, repeated and undisclosed gifts,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, in mid-August. “No government official, elected or unelected, could ethically or legally accept gifts of that scale. He should resign immediately.”

Other than Mr. Lieu, four other House Democrats have said Justice Thomas should resign from the bench. They include Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).

In response to the reports, Justice Thomas has said he “endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines,” adding that the “guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance.”

“And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future,” he added in a statement.

Meanwhile, Harlan Crow, whose friendship with Justice Thomas was the subject of the ProPublica reports, issued a comment to The Atlantic earlier this year saying that it “would be absurd to me to talk to Justice Thomas about Supreme Court cases, because that’s not my world.”

READ 36 COMMENTS
  • James Leamons says:

    The problem the democrats have with Justice Thomas is, it is hard to get them back on the plantation with the same lies and deceit that made them leave in the first place…

  • Ole says:

    I don’t think mr lieu has much to complain about. He should be looking in a mirror when he makes those statements

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