Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been condemned for maintaining “shameless” links to rightwing benefactors after ProPublica published new details of his acceptance of undeclared gifts, including 38 vacations and expensive sports tickets. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, rendered an especially damning verdict. '“Unprecedented. Stunning. Disgusting. The height of hypocrisy to wear the robes of a [justice] and take undisclosed gifts from billionaires who benefit from your decisions. 38 free vacations. Yachts. Luxury mansions. Skyboxes at events. Resign,” she posted. Thomas denies wrongdoing, claiming never discussing court business with his benefactors and to have been wrongly advised about disclosure requirements, according to The Guardian. Supreme Court justices are nominally subject to ethics rules for federal judges but in practice govern themselves.
Thomas joined the court in 1991, becoming the second Black justice in place of the first, Thurgood Marshall. Sherrilyn Ifill, former director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) legal fund, said Thomas had created “a crisis and we need to start treating it as such. Our profession, the Senate Judiciary Committee, newspaper editorial boards, and the chief [justice] will need to summon the courage needed to call for what, by now, should be the obvious next step.” Robert Reich, a former Labor Secretary now a Berkeley professor and Guardian columnist, pointed to what that “next step” might be, saying Thomas “must resign or be impeached if [the court] is going to retain any credibility.” Republican control of the House renders impeachment unlikely. Nor is Thomas likely to resign, particularly as Democrats hold the Senate, able to reduce conservative dominance of the court should he leave. Nonetheless, calls for Thomas to go continued. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a campaign group, said: “If three times makes a pattern, what does 38 times make? We’ll tell you: the fact that Clarence Thomas has taken 38 luxury trips with billionaires without disclosing them means this kind of ethical lapse is part of his lifestyle. He needs to resign.”