Clarence Thomas Faces Ethics Questions

Justice Thomas' friendship with conservative donors to several projects honoring the judge are under scrutiny.

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Justice Clarence Thomas' ethics are under scrutiny. (Getty)

The New York Times is reporting that several projects involving conservative friends of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas are under scrutiny. Apparently Thomas introduced Harlan Crow -- a wealthy, conservative Dallas real estate mogul -- to Algernon Varn, a man who lives in the coastal village near Savannah, Ga., where Thomas was raised, in order to finance a preservation project of the land. Thomas' friend Mr. Crow financed the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery on the coastal land, featuring a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point. Varn's project has become a pet project of Thomas'.

According to the article, the project throws a spotlight on an unusual, and ethically sensitive, friendship that appears to be markedly different from those of other justices on the nation's highest court. The two men met in the mid-1990s, a few years after Thomas joined the court. Since then, Crow has done many favors for the justice and his wife, Virginia, helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for Mrs. Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group. They have also spent time together at gatherings of prominent Republicans and businesspeople at Crow's Adirondacks estate and his camp in East Texas.

These activities are raising questions about Supreme Court ethics. Crow's financing of the museum, his largest such act of generosity, previously unreported, raises the sharpest questions yet -- both about Thomas' extrajudicial activities and about the extent to which the justices should remain exempt from the code of conduct for federal judges.

We find it interesting that Thomas' activities are still under scrutiny. Nothing has been done to curb his questionable actions previously, so why think he's going to stop now? We also wonder if any of the other Supreme Court justices are involved in similar activities with wealthy friends or donors related to pet projects.

We're not Supreme Court justices or anything, but having that level of involvement in projects that could influence your decision-making process is shady at best. We find it befuddling that federal judges have an ethical code to follow, while Supreme Court justices do not. Scholars can continue to debate the ethics of Thomas' decisions, but until some actual laws are on the books for the Supreme Court justices' ethical behavior, it won't make a difference. 

Read more at the New York Times. 

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