Supreme Court Justices Are Not Above the Law

What is the proper choice for Clarence Thomas: recusal or resignation?
Clarence Thomas

Highly controversial texts sent by the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — repeatedly urging White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election — have brought heightened scrutiny to the Court’s impartiality. Many people have called on Justice Thomas to recuse himself from any future case involving the January 6 insurrection. 

Given the nature of his wife’s political activities and Thomas’s own ethical missteps, the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress need to push strenuously for Thomas’s resignation. 

This would not be the first time a president cleared his desk to focus on a Supreme Court Justice. Richard Nixon targeted Abe Fortas and successfully forced him to resign. Why? Nixon hated him, and one might argue because Fortas was Jewish. 

Nixon had no legitimate reason to get rid of Fortas. But President Joe Biden has plenty of reasons to get rid of Thomas. Biden has precedent on his side and he should use it.

The Ginni Thomas situation is an extraordinary case that requires action. It’s not directly about the content of her texts. The critical ethical issues are that she had special access to the White House because she’s the wife of a Supreme Court justice and she made herself a player in Trump’s relentless effort to overturn a free and fair election. By any reasonable standard, Thomas should not participate in any case involving the January 6 insurrection due to his wife’s involvement in this seditious event. There’s both the appearance of impropriety and a high risk of lack of impartiality. 

Additionally, ethical controversies have dogged Clarence Thomas throughout his tenure on the Court. He has repeatedly been called out for his accepting large fees from conser­vat­ive groups for speak­ing engage­ments, as well as accepting expensive gifts and favors from a controversial Republican donor. 

Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter once remarked, “The power of the court is the power of trust earned — the trust of the American people.” 

For many people, trust in the Supreme Court has become much more tenuous as the Court’s conservative majority has become increasingly partisan and out of step with the majority of Americans. To help rebuild trust in the Court’s impartiality, President Biden and Democrats need to be more assertive in demanding Thomas’s immediate resignation.

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Mark Pinsley

Mark Pinsley has over 25 years of professional experience in innovation and marketing. Pinsley is the Controller of Lehigh County and a small business owner. He has his MBA from the Kelley School of Business and a certificate in Ethics from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. His background includes success as an entrepreneur and senior staff of multinational corporations.

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