Michael Tomasky: "No one has damaged the Supreme Court’s reputation more than the Thomases"

When it comes to conflicts of interest, is anyone on the Supreme Court worse than Justice Thomas?

Published December 25, 2022 6:30AM (EST)

Virginia "Ginni" Thomas | Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Virginia "Ginni" Thomas | Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

During the 1990s, Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia represented the lunatic fringe of the U.S. Supreme Court. Thomas' far-right social conservatism stood in contrast to the liberalism of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the right-wing libertarianism of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the moderate conservatism of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

But with the high court now dominated by the radical right, Thomas is no longer out of step with most of his fellow justices. These days, Thomas is arguably more influential on the court than Chief Justice John Roberts. And the activism of his wife, far-right conspiracy theorist Ginni Thomas, has been drawing more and more scrutiny — especially in light of his wife's efforts to help former President Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election results.

Many critics of the Thomases have been stressing that it is a major conflict of interest for someone as active on the far right as Ginni Thomas to be married to a Supreme Court justice. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City has even called for Justice Thomas' impeachment.

Ginni Thomas has insisted that there is no conflict of interest because the Thomases operate in "separate lanes." But journalist Michael Tomasky, in a scathing article published by The New Republic on Dec. 23, lays out some reasons why the "separate lanes" argument is problematic. The New Republic, in fact, has picked Clarence and Ginni Thomas as their "Scoundrels of the Year" for 2022.

"Clarence Thomas, now concluding his 36th year as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, has spent years flouting the ethics rules to which all federal judges except Supreme Court justices must adhere," Tomasky explains. "Ginni Thomas has spent those same years in the thick of the right-wing infrastructure that has pushed cause after cause after cause — many of which have eventually made their way to the Supreme Court. She has maintained that the two operate in 'separate lanes' professionally. It's a line that kinda-sorta worked . . . It was always murky at best. But in 2022, it became far less so."

Tomasky continues: "She texted urgently with Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in late 2020 and early 2021 about strategies to overturn the election, as The Washington Post revealed in a blockbuster story back in March. In due course, the matter of Meadows' e-mails and other White House documents relating to the Jan. 6 insurrection came before the Supreme Court — an extremely conservative Supreme Court, remember, now with three justices appointed by Trump himself. And in Jan. 2022, the only justice to vote against ordering the release of the material was the one whose wife's scribblings were included within it."

The Big Lie — Trump's false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud — has been thoroughly debunked time and time again. But it's a conspiracy theory that the wife of a U.S. Supreme Court justice aggressively promoted during the late 2020/early 2021 lame-duck session.

In one of her text messages to Meadows, Tomasky notes, Ginni Thomas wrote, "Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition."

The U.S. is in a dangerous place, Tomasky warns, when the wife of an influential U.S. Supreme Court justice holds such views and is very active in her party.

"If we are to believe the 'separate lanes" theory," Tomasky argues, "then we accept not only that Ginni did not share the content of these messages with her husband, which is plausible, but also, that she never said to him, over dinner or while relaxing with Fox News at night, that she had exchanged texts with Meadows. You can believe that if you want."

Tomasky adds that when it comes to conflicts of interest, no one on the Supreme Court is worse than Justice Thomas.

"When Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the D.C. Court of Appeals, her husband quit practicing tax law and returned to teaching," Tomasky notes. "When John Roberts was nominated for the high court, his wife left her law practice and resigned from a position at a pro-life group. Not the Thomases. Make no mistake: The entire right-wing bloc has damaged the court's credibility. But no one has damaged the Supreme Court's reputation more than the Thomases."

By Alex Henderson

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