“Clarence Thomas’ continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics,” said one observer. “He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump.”
Democracy defenders expressed anger and consternation Friday after The Washington Post revealed that Ginni Thomas—the right-wing activist and wife of Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—pushed Arizona state lawmakers to invoke a dubious legal theory advocated by her husband in order to help then-President Donald Trump reverse his 2020 presidential election loss.
“The conflict of interest between Ginni and Clarence Thomas has never been greater.”
“Ginni Thomas’ involvement in the seditious conspiracy to overturn the will of the American people poses a conflict of interest that Congress can no longer ignore,” said Sean Eldrige, founder and president of the pro-democracy advocacy group Stand Up America.
“Justice Thomas violated his oath to ‘faithfully and impartially’ administer justice by failing to recuse himself in cases related to the 2020 presidential election,” he added. “No one should be above the law—not even Supreme Court justices. “It’s time to demand accountability from the highest court in the land. Congress should act immediately to pass a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.”
Emails obtained by the Post show that Ginni Thomas emailed Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-25) and state Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R-20)—who advocates empowering legislators to void the will of voters—urging them to disregard President Joe Biden’s victory and replace the state’s electors with a “clean slate.”
New evidence that Ginni Thomas’s participation in efforts to overturn the 2020 election was even greater than we knew; in this case pressure on AZ legislators to overturn that state’s vote. Makes it even more outrageous that Justice Thomas did not recuse.https://t.co/iKyBsJq5HT
— Noah Bookbinder (@NoahBookbinder) May 20, 2022
Echoing the “Big Lie” that Democrats rigged the 2020 contest, Thomas—who also sent numerous emails to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, urging him to push to overturn the election—implored the lawmakers to “do your constitutional duty” by using their “power to fight back against fraud.”
A later audit of Arizona’s election that Trump supporters said would prove it was “stolen” concluded there was no fraud—and that Biden actually won the state by more votes than the official count.
Thomas told the Arizona lawmakers that the power to choose electors was “yours and yours alone,” an apparent reference to “independent state legislature theory” (ISLT). The Brennan Center for Justice describes ISLT as a “baseless” concept “making the rounds in conservative legal circles” that posits congressional elections can only be regulated by a state’s lawmakers, not its judiciary—or even its constitution.
“While Clarence was applying the ‘independent state legislature doctrine’ from the bench, Ginni was using the exact same theory to try to overturn the 2020 election,” wrote Slate senior writer Mark Joseph Stern. “Just breathtaking corruption.”
“The conflict of interest between Ginni and Clarence Thomas has never been greater,” he added.
The conflict of interest between Ginni and Clarence Thomas has never been greater. While Clarence was applying the “independent state legislature doctrine” from the bench, Ginni was using the exact same theory to try to overturn the 2020 election. Just breathtaking corruption.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 20, 2022
Thomas has embraced ISLT in cases of vital importance to the future of U.S. democracy, including two in which a majority of justices affirmed the right of courts to intervene when state legislatures engage in partisan rigging of congressional district maps.
In one of the cases, Moore v. North Carolina, Thomas joined right-wing Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch in a dissent arguing that the state’s Supreme Court may have violated the Constitution by overruling state lawmakers.
Progressive politicians and advocates have been calling for Thomas’ resignation or impeachment over his failure to recuse himself from cases involving the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol by supporters of Trump’s “Big Lie.”
Clarence Thomas was the only Supreme Court justice to vote to keep the White House’s communications about overthrowing the government secret.
Do you actually believe it was a coincidence that his wife was communicating with the White House about overthrowing the government?
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) May 19, 2022
Thomas was the lone dissenter in January as the justices rejected Trump’s bid to block the release of presidential records to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.
More recently, Thomas’ response to widespread public anger over the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating the likely voiding of reproductive rights via reversal of Roe v. Wade has also raised eyebrows.
Opining that Americans “are becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like,” Thomas asserted that the nation’s highest court “can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want.”
— Pat Bagley (@Patbagley) May 20, 2022
This isn’t the first time the Thomases have been accused of an election-related conflict of interest.
As the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Bush v. Gore, a case that would decide the results of the inconclusive 2000 presidential election, Ginni Thomas admitted to soliciting résumés from prospective officials in what would be the George W. Bush administration after her husband and four other justices—three of them also accused of conflicts of interest—ruled in the Republican nominee’s favor.
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