While Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson was vowing to recuse from a Harvard affirmative action case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear next term, walking ethics violation Clarence Thomas was supposedly recovering from whatever undisclosed illness that had him hospitalized for a week, and presumably making plans for this, his first public appearance since the illness.
That’s not problematic at all, right? It’s just the Supreme Court justice whose wife was egging on a Trump insurrection just a little over a year ago, hanging out with a Trump-endorsed Senate candidate, in the middle of the campaign. The tweeter there is Walker’s campaign spokesperson, who followed up with typical Republican obnoxiousness: “If you are offended that two men who happen to be Black are conservative, you might be racist.” Because of course a Republican isn’t going to be bothered by obvious political corruption.
The event at which Thomas decided to reappear was for Walker’s award from the Horatio Alger Association, on whose board Thomas sits as an honorary member. How that happened, how Walker—the confessed domestic abuser with violent tendencies that have put him in conflict with law enforcement—qualified for an award based on “perseverance, integrity, and a commitment to excellence,” is slightly mysterious.
That Thomas would pose for a photograph with him, which was then made public by his campaign staff, is less mysterious. Thomas is a rabid partisan, as rabid as his wife, who continues to thumb his nose at the very idea that Supreme Court justices should be bound by any kind of ethics concerns. Like any other Republicans, he pretends to be deeply hurt by the mere suggestion that he’s taking his politics to work every day.
Last September, he complained about the impression that he and his fellow conservatives were playing politics on the court. This, immediately after the court decided in an unsigned, unargued, unprincipled shadow docket ruling to let Texas’s unconstitutional abortion ban continue even as it was being challenged in the courts.
“I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference,” Thomas said, at Notre Dame University in Indiana. “So if they think you are anti-abortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician.
“That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.”
Yes, it’s the media’s fault that the hyperpartisan Supreme Court is losing legitimacy with the American public. That people are talking about reforming the Supreme Court and making it accountable. “You can cavalierly talk about packing or stacking the Court. You can cavalierly talk about doing this or doing that. At some point the institution is going to be compromised,” Thomas said at an event last month. That event? At the foundation created by former Republican Senator Orrin Hatch in Salt Lake City.
“By doing this,” Thomas said, “you continue to chip away at the respect of the institutions that the next generation is going to need if they’re going to have civil society.”
Or you just have a coup and overturn Congress and the White House, sort of like the coup that Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump achieved at the Supreme Court, and you could call it “civil society” while you systematically impose fascism.
The Supreme Court needs to be reformed. Clarence Thomas is Exhibit A of that need. Congress needs to impose ethics standards—it has deemed itself above the rules the rest of the judiciary has to abide by. Congress needs to expand the court.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.