Next Steps for the Review of Justice Thomas’s Ethics Controversy

Clarence Thomas seated in black robes speaking with Chief Justice John Roberts
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (left) talks to Chief Justice John Roberts (right) during the formal group photograph at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, US, on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Photo by Eric Lee/UPI/Alamy Live News

Next month, the Judicial Conference will meet and should report out regarding the current review they are conducting into the allegations that Justice Clarence Thomas violated federal financial disclosure laws.

Today, in anticipation of that meeting, Campaign Legal Center submitted additional information for this body to consider in its role as the investigator of financial disclosure law violations for federal judges.

CLC’s submission reveals a nearly 30-year pattern of Justice Thomas initially disclosing certain financial interests, but suddenly excluding the financial interests after receiving negative media attention.

screenshot detailing a timeline of Justice Thomas failing to file proper financial disclosures

As a justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas is sworn to put public interests first over his own personal gain. However, reporting from 2023 uncovered that Justice Thomas appears to have knowingly and willfully submitted inaccurate and incomplete financial disclosure statements for nearly three decades, in violation of the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA).  

It is critical for the public’s trust in our democratic institutions that the highest court in our nation is held to at least the same ethical standards as the other branches of government and lower courts, and that justices are held accountable when they violate those standards.  

For these reasons, the Judicial Conference should refer Justice Thomas to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the discrepancies that exist in the financial disclosures he has submitted. Failure to refer this matter for further investigation could further deteriorate public confidence in the Judiciary.

Until the Supreme Court has a concrete mechanism to enforce its code of ethics, CLC will keep pushing for entities like the Judicial Conference to do their part in ensuring that justices on the nation’s highest court adhere to the law as required.

Janel is a Media Associate, Campaign Finance, Ethics at CLC.