Thomas must recuse, Supreme Court needs Code of Conduct
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas must recuse from all cases involving the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection following revelations that his wife, Ginni Thomas, participated in efforts to overturn the election, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to Chief Justice John Roberts. The Supreme Court must also establish a Code of Conduct to formalize and enforce recusal processes to address conflicts of interest like those faced by Justice Thomas.
Ginni Thomas actively supported Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election by texting his then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows conspiracy theories and legal strategies to invalidate the election results and attending the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. She also served as a board member on a conservative political group that helped lead the “Stop the Steal” movement, and signed a letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling on him to punish any Republicans who participate in the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection.
Despite these conflicts of interest, Justice Thomas has not recused from Supreme Court cases involving the January 6 insurrection or the 2020 election. He was the lone vote to block the House Select Committee from getting January 6 documents from Donald Trump, creating a clear appearance of bias and a possible major conflict of interest. The letter explained that Justice Thomas will likely also need to recuse from cases involving the 2024 election if Donald Trump runs again or if Ginni Thomas is once again closely involved with the campaign.
“By participating in cases involving the 2020 election and the insurrection, including cases that could specifically involve his spouse, Justice Thomas is irreparably compromising public trust in the integrity of the Supreme Court’s decision-making process,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “He must recuse from these cases immediately.”
Supreme Court justices are subject to a legal statute that requires all federal judges to recuse themselves from any judicial proceedings in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. In addition, a judge must recuse when they know that their spouse has “any…interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.” However, it is up to the Supreme Court justice to decide when this statute applies and enforce it for themselves. Ginni Thomas’s political ties and advocacy have raised concerns regarding Justice Thomas’s impartiality in a range of matters, including the 2020 election as well as affirmative action cases that may come before the Court this term. Chief Justice Roberts, as presiding officer of the Court, should ensure that the Court implements formal recusal processes that can be meaningfully enforced by adopting a Supreme Court Code of Conduct.
“Justice Thomas failed to abide by an ethics law that was meant to protect against the kind of conflict of interest posed by his wife’s involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election when he considered cases implicating those efforts. That failure puts into sharp relief the serious gaps in the ethics controls for the Supreme Court,” said Bookbinder. “The Court must quickly implement a Code of Conduct to keep this from happening again and ensure the Supreme Court’s impartiality and integrity as the attacks on our democracy continue.”