Clarence Thomas’ salary complaints led to right-wing fears that he would resign

By | December 18, 2023

Clarence Thomas told a Republican congressman that the U.S. Supreme Court justices should get a raise or “one or more” would resign, sparking “a flurry of activity” among right-wingers because his “interest as a conservative is paramount was,” ProPublica said in its latest publication. hard-hitting report on questionable ethics at the Supreme Court.

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Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who spoke to Thomas in 2000, told the nonprofit’s newsroom: “We wanted to make sure he was comfortable in his job and that he was paid well.”

At the time, a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, would have nominated a replacement if a judge had resigned. Republicans controlled the Senate, which would have carried out the confirmation.

ProPublica said Thomas spoke with Stearns on a flight after speaking at Awakening, a “conservative thought weekend” featuring golf, shooting lessons and aromatherapy, along with panel discussions with business leaders and elected officials,” held in Sea Island, Georgia, in January . 2000.

Thomas’ trip was paid for by event organizers, ProPublica said, adding that the judge had listed 11 free trips on his annual disclosure form that year, but not the trip to Awakening, “a clear violation of federal disclosure law.”

Thomas’ finances are in the spotlight this year, as ProPublica publishes a series of in-depth reports, sparking an ethics scandal.

He accepted but largely left out donations from Republican donors, including luxury travel and resort stays, college tuition and real estate purchases.

An arch-conservative on a panel dominated 6-3 by the right, Thomas has been in power since 1991, dominated by allegations of sexual harassment.

In response to reports from ProPublica and other media, he has denied wrongdoing and pledged to abide by disclosure rules. Progressives have called for him to resign or be impeached and impeached — a totally unlikely outcome when the court is in conservative hands and Republicans control the House of Representatives and contest the Senate.

ProPublica said the Justice Department was struggling financially at the time of its conversation with Stearns. The site published a letter dated January 11, 2000, in which the congressman told the judge: “Just a note to let you know how much I enjoyed visiting you on the flight back from Jacksonville to Dulles.

“I plan to explore a bill to increase the salaries of members of the Supreme Court. As we agreed, if the Constitution is interpreted correctly, it is worth a lot to Americans. Here too we must have the right incentives.”

Quoting the philosopher Immanuel Kant, Stearns told Thomas to “be patient a while; slander does not last long.”

On Monday, former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, among others, responded to the ProPublica story calling Thomas a “loyal judicial prostitute”.

Stearns sought help from a lobbying firm and spoke in the House of Representatives. Thomas’s suggestion that dismissal might be imminent reached the judicial administrators. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist said in his annual report: “The most pressing problem facing the judiciary: the need to increase judicial salaries.”

Mitch McConnell, a Republican senator from Kentucky (now minority leader), proposed lifting a ban on paid speeches by judges. That attempt failed and Supreme Court salaries have not changed, other than keeping up with inflation.

But ProPublica also reported that “During his second decade on the field, Thomas’ financial situation appears to have improved significantly.” The justice received a $1.5 million advance for his memoirs and gifts from wealthy individuals.

During a public appearance in June 2019, Thomas was asked about court salaries.

“Oh God, I think that’s enough,” Thomas said. “My wife [the rightwing activist Ginni Thomas] and I’m doing well. We don’t live extravagantly, but we are doing well.”

ProPublica said: “A few weeks later, Thomas came on board [the mega-donor Harlan] Crow’s private jet goes to Indonesia. He and his wife were on vacation, an island cruise on Crow’s 162ft yacht.

In a statement, Caroline Ciccone, president of the watchdog Accountable.US, said the ProPublica report once again shows how Thomas “has long viewed his position on our nation’s highest court as a way to improve his own lifestyle.”

Ciccone said: “When the court itself did not offer him the luxurious benefits he wanted, his social circle of billionaires and benefactors stepped in to make it happen.

‘Justice Thomas, Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo [of the Federalist Society, a key figure in rightwing activism around the US judiciary] and other key players in this corruption crisis may think they are above the law – but they are not. With public trust at an all-time low, it is well past time to restore the credibility and integrity of our Supreme Court.”

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