In the Courts

Legal Experts Call Attacks On Clarence Thomas ‘Ridiculous,’ Slam Media Reports As ‘Incomplete’

  • Legal experts and judges rejected recent reporting on Justice Clarence Thomas, saying it failed to uncover true wrongdoing and instead aimed to influence public opinion.
  • Reports allege Thomas violated ethics rules by accepting expense-paid vacations from friend and billionaire Harlan Crow, failing to disclose the sale of his mother’s home to Crow, and not updating the name of a real estate firm he received rental income from after its name changed in 2006.
  • “With each new hit piece, the Left is revealing its true motive: to impugn Justice Thomas by any means necessary, no matter how ridiculous the charge,” Carrie Severino, Judicial Crisis Network president and former clerk to Justice Thomas, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Media reports on alleged scandals surrounding Justice Clarence Thomas reveal the Left’s desire to destroy his credibility, legal experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

After the ProPublica report on Thomas’ acceptance of expense-paid trips from his friend, billionaire real estate developer Harlan Crow, which Thomas said his colleagues assured him was not reportable, multiple other reports were released accusing Thomas of wrongdoing. Lawyers told the Daily Caller News Foundation the reports are incomplete, amounting to a smear campaign aimed at swaying public perception, joining two federal judges who also criticized the reports this week.

“With each new hit piece, the Left is revealing its true motive: to impugn Justice Thomas by any means necessary, no matter how ridiculous the charge,” Carrie Severino, Judicial Crisis Network President and former clerk to Justice Thomas, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Washington Post published a story on Sunday on Justice Thomas reporting income from a “defunct real estate firm” on his financial disclosures. The “defunct” company that ceased to exist in 2006 — Ginger, Ltd., Partnership —changed its name that same year to operate as Ginger Holdings, LLC.

“The Washington Post should consider covering the Biden Administration with the vigor they put into investigating whether Justice Thomas wrote LLC or LLP,” Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted, reacting to the story.

Because critics of Thomas cannot argue his approach or decisions are legally incorrect, they “drop innuendos and incomplete information” to hope “uninformed people will assume the worst,” Thomas Jipping, senior legal fellow for Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told the DCNF.

“Justice Thomas’ critics cannot convince the public that his approach to judging or his individual decisions are legally incorrect, so they and their media enablers drop innuendos and incomplete information, hoping…that uninformed people will assume the worst,” he continued. “Falsely smearing a judge whose decisions left-wing groups and politicians don’t like will further erode the public’s confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.”

ProPublica published a story last week on Crow’s purchase of a single-story home where the justice’ mother lived, along with two empty lots on the same street in Savannah, Georgia, which Crow told the outlet he intended to turn into a public museum telling the justice’s story.

Thomas will amend his disclosure to include Crow’s purchase of the home, which he believed was not necessary to report because he lost money on the deal, a source close to Thomas told CNN on Monday.

Though the story prompted Democratic senators to request the DOJ launch an investigation, Jipping pointed out it, along with the others, doesn’t actually prove wrongdoing.

“Justice Thomas did not report personal hospitality from longtime friends that he was not required to report,” he said. “He reported rental income but failed to fill in the new name of the property owner. He reported his small financial interest in property he co-owned for years but apparently not when the property was sold.”

“It is beneath the media and our elected representatives to collude in suggesting that matters like these, and not the merits of Justice Thomas’ judging, are important to the [American] people,” he continued.

Crow himself told the Dallas Morning news he believed it was a “political hit job.”

Two federal judges have also criticized the reporting. Fifth Circuit Judge James Ho, who previously clerked for Thomas, defended him during Tuesday remarks to a Dallas Federalist Society chapter, according to Reason.

He noted there is a “big difference between actual corruption and the appearance of corruption,” pointing to a Wall Street Journal report from 2021 alleging over 100 judges failed to recuse themselves from cases where they had a financial interest.

“It showed that judges are imperfect human beings, like everyone else,” he said, referring to the story. “But I don’t recall anyone calling for all of these judges to be impeached or punished.”

Ho said he welcomed discussion about strengthening ethics and disclosure requirements, but rejected “hypocritical double standards.”

Third Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman also criticized ProPublica’s initial report, which alleged Thomas violated ethics rules by failing to disclose acceptance of expense-paid trips from Crow, dismissing the idea that it is a “scandal.”

“[T]here was no intimation at any time, ever, that his billionaire friend ever had any business before the Supreme Court. So, how’s he helping his friend?” he said at an April 12th event, according to the National Review. “He’s not even in a position to help his friend because his friend had exactly zero cases in the Supreme Court.”

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