Justice Clarence Thomas exposed the travels of billionaire Harlan Crowe

WASHINGTON – Renewed focus on judicial ethics, conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued the trips His friend, billionaire Harlan Crowe, made the payment in his annual financial disclosure statement on Thursday.

In his 2022 report on his activities, Thomas noted that Crow paid for his trip to a conservative. Conference in Dallas In May 2022. Thomas He spoke at the eventHeld at a facility Owned by Crowe’s Real Estate. Crow also offered a return flight from Dallas in February following the blizzard, Thomas said.

Thomas also said Crow paid for a trip to the Adirondacks in New York state in July 2022.

In notes attached to the report, Thomas flew on a private jet for the May 2022 trip because of heightened security concerns following the leak of a draft opinion that month showing the court was poised to overturn abortion rights.

Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas during a group portrait session at the Supreme Court in Washington on April 23, 2021.Erin Schaaf/Getty Images File

Attorney Elliot Berg, who helped prepare the report, issued a statement after reviewing Thomas’ records that “I believe there were no intentional ethical violations and that the prior reporting errors were strictly inadvertent.”

Members of the Supreme Court were criticized for frequent violations of ethics A ProPublica report Thomas described accepting lavish trips from Crowe, a Republican donor, which he had not disclosed in his previous financial disclosure statements.

In March, shortly before the first ProPublica article about Thomas was published, disclosure rules were changed to clarify that trips on private jets and stays at privately owned resorts must be disclosed. Issues related to judicial ethics are overseen by the American Judicial Conference, the judiciary’s policymaking body.

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Both Thomas and fellow conservative Justice Samuel Alito asked for a delay in filing their annual reports, which is allowed under federal law. Reports are usually submitted in May and made public the following month.

Alito’s statement Trips paid for by Duke Law School and Notre Dame Law School were disclosed, the latter in Rome, Italy.

The other seven judges submitted their annual financial disclosure statements casually, listing income, assets, gifts and shares.

Judges can ask for an extension of up to 90 days to file reports.

Another report from ProPublica revealed Alito took a luxury vacation in Alaska with a Republican donor who has business interests before the court.

ProPublica’s report focused in part on Thomas and Alito’s failure to disclose the travel and hospitality they received.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have called for new Supreme Court ethics rules.

Thomas said Crow’s gifts were “personal hospitality,” meaning he didn’t have to disclose them under the previous rules.

His statement on Thursday expanded on that defense in a section explaining his approach. Before the rule change, the report said, “the petitioner adhered to the then prevailing judicial norms in practice and on the advice of the Judicial Conference, as did his colleagues.”

Thomas also addressed Crowe’s purchase of real estate owned by the judge’s family in Savannah. It was revealed first via ProPublica. According to the report, Thomas’ mother lived in one of the houses.

Crow bought the three properties for $133,000, along with other lots on the street, the report said. Thomas had previously invested up to $75,000 in his mother’s house and lost on the transaction. Thomas didn’t realize he had to disclose the sale because it caused a loss, the report said.

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“Judge Thomas had no profit or net income from the transaction,” Berg said in his statement.

Thomas’ statement also noted that he had inadvertently omitted bank accounts and other reportable financial matters held by his wife, conservative political activist Ginny Thomas, in previous statements.

Gabe Roth, executive director of the Judicial Ethics Watchdog, welcomed the revelations but said more could be done to address the hospitality Thomas received in previous years.

“Judge Thomas’ lengthy explanation of why he avoided various gifts and free rides in previous disclosures does not counter his decades of deliberate obfuscation when it comes to his reporting requirements,” Roth said.

The Judicial Conference should ask the judiciary to investigate as permitted under the relevant Judicial Disclosure Act, he said.

Alito also rejected the same notion of wrongdoing, saying the 2008 Alaska trip was not reported under disclosure rules at the time.

He also questioned whether Congress had the power to impose strict ethics rules on the court, an unusual intervention by a judge sitting on a direct legal question.

“No provision in the Constitution gives them the power to regulate the Supreme Court — period,” he told the Wall Street Journal. Interview Last month.

Most legal experts say Congress has a role in overseeing the court, though there are questions about the extent to which it can do so without violating the Constitution’s separation of powers. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan said in a public appearance this month that Congress can regulate the court, though she noted there are limits to what it can do.

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The justices could decide to impose new binding ethics rules without congressional intervention, but Kagan indicated that no agreement had been reached. Lower court judges are already subject to a binding code of ethics.

The justices said in a statement in April that they “reaffirm and reiterate” their commitment to ethical principles. The judges noted that they file the same financial disclosure reports as other federal judges and follow the same general principles and accounting standards.

However, ethics experts said the report fell short on several fronts, and congressional Democrats immediately criticized it.

Chief Justice John Roberts agreed in May that more needs to be done.

“I want to assure people that I am committed to ensuring that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct. We are constantly looking at things we can do to give practical effect to that commitment,” he said.

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