During a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Supreme Court ethics, two perspectives on Justice Clarence Thomas formed along party lines. Democrats painted the court’s longest-serving justice as a pawn of right-wing “dark money,” which Republicans dismissed as racist stereotypes.
Following calls for the Supreme Court to adopt an ethics code, Democrats conducted a hearing before the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet on Wednesday with the possible impeachment of Justice Thomas a prominent topic.
Thomas came under fire after emails between his wife Ginni Thomas and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows discussing rigging the 2020 election in Trump’s favor surfaced earlier this month, exposing her long history of support for conservative causes.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, stated in his opening remarks that the actions, beliefs, or ideas of a judge’s spouse cannot, should not, and will never be grounds for impeachment of that judge.
“They had the audacity decades ago to marry someone with an opinion, no justice should be admonished,” Issa threw in her two cents.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida asked expert witness Mark Paoletta if the idea that Thomas’s decisions were influenced by his wife’s political activity was an “attempt to invoke a racist trope that black people are less intelligent and more persuadable,” and Paoletta agreed.
Thomas, according to Democrats on the subcommittee, is a classic example of the corruption of conservative Supreme Court appointees.
“We have a Republican Supreme Court majority that is more corrupt than ever before,” said Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York. “And make no mistake, none of those Republican justices is more corrupt than Justice Clarence Thomas.”
“At a time when Koch was bankrolling several litigants with cases before the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas attended a Koch Industries retreat in Palm Springs, California,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat. “This isn’t even how dark money appears. This is Justice Thomas going into the eye of the dark money hurricane.”
Members of the Supreme Court are not bound by the same code of ethics as members of the other parts of government, and Democrats have argued that the strong ties between Thomas and his wife’s involvement in the Jan. 6 disturbance necessitate tighter monitoring of the justices’ conduct.