Scrutiny on Justice Thomas Intensifies As Supreme Court Investigation Escalates

( – Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a Senate Judiciary Federal Court Oversight Sub-committee chair, announced on October 30 they would call for a vote to authorize subpoenaing three witnesses in the Supreme Court ethics investigation because they have refused to cooperate voluntarily. Testimony sought from all three individuals could intensify the senators’ scrutiny of Justice Clarence Thomas’s actions and disclosures regarding the ethical ramifications to the High Court.

Investigative Reports Prompt Action

More than 11 years ago, Durbin and Whitehouse were among the senators who signed a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts about their concerns regarding the Supreme Court’s lack of a binding Code of Conduct. All other federal judges, executive branch, and legislative branch elected officials, appointees, and employees sign a similar document, pledging to maintain transparency under penalty of law.

However, in early April 2023, ProPublica began an investigative series titled “Friends of the Court” by questioning undisclosed gifts of vacations, tuition, and real estate that Texas billionaire Harlan Crow gave to Justice Clarence Thomas, bringing the issue to the forefront once again. Durbin, Whitehouse, and the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee have questions they wish to ask Crow, billionaire Robin Arkley II, and political activist Leonard Leo regarding previously undeclared gifts to SCOTUS Justices like Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia.

So far, Crow has communicated with the committee but hasn’t agreed to provide the information requested, and Arkley and Leo have ignored all requests and communications. Their refusals prompted Durbin to speak about his decision to seek subpoenas on the Senate floor on Tuesday, October 31.

He described his frustration as he emphasized how he had received years of reports describing “ethical misconduct by individual Justices.” Yet, he explained how the recent investigative reporting brought the festering situation to a head, threatening to burst, fatally infecting the judiciary. He stated the Supreme Court had suffered a “historic loss of public confidence” as a result, and recent polls bear his statement out. Recent surveys from Pew Research and Statista/YouGov show the Court’s job approval was below 50% and dropping.

Committee Looking To Broaden Investigation

During his Tuesday speech, Durbin pointed out that this current ethical crisis is wholly the result of the Supreme Court Justices’ own inaction because they alone determine what constitutes appropriate conduct.

While testimony from the three witnesses the committee intends to subpoena will almost certainly intensify scrutiny on Justice Thomas, he’s not the only one who might begin to squirm. Durbin made his investigative plans clear. The committee needs to learn more about how companies and individuals gain private access to the Justices.

In his previous speech, he proposed a solution to Roberts and the SCOTUS: “The Chief Justice could fix this problem today and adopt a binding code of conduct,” including mechanisms to enforce, investigate, and remediate discrepancies. Still, Durbin cautioned that the Judiciary Committee would have to address the crisis if Roberts refused to act.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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