So much for impartial justice

Yesterday, I wrote about how a liberal judge, Janet Protasiewicz, was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Her opponent was spittin’ mad, because she had been “political,” campaigning on her support for pro-choice positions, as if he wasn’t, because campaigning on a rabid anti-choice position isn’t political, somehow. Some Wisconsin Republicans are already scheming to impeach her, because she is somehow bad for holding the opinions she has.

Clarence Thomas and his sugar daddy, Harlan Crow

Now consider the corruption of US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

For more than two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury trips virtually every year from the Dallas businessman [Harlan Crow] without disclosing them, documents and interviews show. A public servant who has a salary of $285,000, he has vacationed on Crow’s superyacht around the globe. He flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet. He has gone with Crow to the Bohemian Grove, the exclusive California all-male retreat, and to Crow’s sprawling ranch in East Texas. And Thomas typically spends about a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks.

The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.

These trips appeared nowhere on Thomas’ financial disclosures. His failure to report the flights appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts, two ethics law experts said. He also should have disclosed his trips on the yacht, these experts said.

He’s rotten all the way through. It’s not just that he accepted absurdly expensive gifts from a right-wing billionaire, but that he knew it was unethical — he kept them secret.

I, too, am a public servant, although one that gets a salary less than a quarter of Thomas’s, and lacking all those additional perks. Every year I get sent an annoying form that I have to fill out, asking for all the details about any income above my salary, and wanting to know about any profitable associations that might bias my teaching or research. It’s mainly aimed at professors who, for instance, might have lucrative ties to pharmaceutical companies. At least I can say it’s easy for me to fill out, lacking additional revenues of that sort, but I do fill it out honestly and accurately.

If any of you readers feel like dropping by to whisk me off in your private plane for a vacation in Indonesia, thank you very much, but I will be listing it on my disclosure form.

Clarence Thomas wouldn’t.

“It’s incomprehensible to me that someone would do this,” said Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton. When she was on the bench, Gertner said, she was so cautious about appearances that she wouldn’t mention her title when making dinner reservations: “It was a question of not wanting to use the office for anything other than what it was intended.”

Virginia Canter, a former government ethics lawyer who served in administrations of both parties, said Thomas “seems to have completely disregarded his higher ethical obligations.”

“When a justice’s lifestyle is being subsidized by the rich and famous, it absolutely corrodes public trust,” said Canter, now at the watchdog group CREW. “Quite frankly, it makes my heart sink.”

Even those vermin in Congress have tighter restrictions on gifts than Supreme Court judges.

There are few restrictions on what gifts justices can accept. That’s in contrast to the other branches of government. Members of Congress are generally prohibited from taking gifts worth $50 or more and would need pre-approval from an ethics committee to take many of the trips Thomas has accepted from Crow.

When your ethical considerations are looser than those of a Matt Gaetz, and you can’t even abide by them, then we can safely say that you’re corrupt to the core. Don’t impeach Janet Protasiewicz, not when you’ve got the thievery and corruption of Clarence Thomas stinking up the joint.


  1. stuffin says

    Ginny, now privately paid for bennies, probably just the tip of the iceberg.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    I recall that Scalia also accepted trips from wealthy “friends,” and in fact died while staying at a private hunting retreat. Do they make an explicit comparison, or are they simply following the “don’t speak ill of the dead” taboo? Did Scalia disclose his grift?

    Supreme Court Justice Scalia dies during hunting trip

  3. whywhywhy says

    I am too cynical. I would have only been surprised if this wasn’t the case.

  4. says

    On the other hand, does anybody really think Thomas would be voting differently if he weren’t getting these gifts? (I’m not pooh-poohing the ethical monstrosities, just pointing out that they merely reinforce what he would do anyways.)

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    Gee, it would have been nice if a Democratic senator on the Judiciary committee took the sexual harassments allegations of one Anita Hill seriously instead of callously dismissing them maybe we wouldn’t be dealing with this. I wonder what happened to him? Surely this would have ruined his career and sent him back to Delaware in disgrace. Right?


  6. velociraptor says

    #2, #3

    It is customary to speak good of the dead.

    Antonin ‘Benito’ Scalia is dead.


  7. says

    If any of you readers feel like dropping by to whisk me off in your private plane for a vacation in Indonesia, thank you very much, but I will be listing it on my disclosure form.

    Sorry, not possible. But if you like, you can come over and watch me play MS Flight Simulator 2004. That’s the vacation I can afford.

  8. dstatton says

    I am a retired federal bank examiner, and we were prohibited from accepting a lunch from a bank.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    I am told senate can technically impeach a SCOTUS judge.

    The senate has had a Democratic majority many times since Clarence Thomas was confirmed… and he promptly got blatant about being a partisan conservative hack, in violation of what he had said during the confirmation hearings.

    The Democrats did nothing, because it is fucking Democrat senators we are talking about.

  10. felixmagister says

    It can’t be considered surprising. When you consistently oppose any law that attempts to limit bribery of public officials, the only real question is whether you’ve been giving or receiving.

  11. drew says

    I, too, am a public servant, although one that gets a salary less than a quarter of Thomas’s, and lacking all those additional perks.

    And presumably, as a university professor, you have some sort of ethics to uphold (questionable as they may be for biologists). The SCOTUS lacks anything like that. Also, SCOTUS justices are even harder to remove than tenured professors. The comparison falls flat.

  12. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    When your ethical considerations are looser than those of a Matt Gaetz

    In addition to the the GasPedo Gates stuff…
    Article: Intercept – Matt Gaetz’s legislative aide is a convicted war criminal

    Derrick Miller, who works on military policy for Rep. Matt Gaetz, served eight years for shooting an Afghan civilian in the head during an interrogation. […] body was left in a latrine, in violation of military standards.
    spokesperson for Gaetz, […] “He was wrongfully convicted and served our country with honor.” […] Miller previously served as a military adviser for [Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas]
    Gaetz has intervened on behalf of another servicemember accused of war crimes. […] Gallagher was charged with stabbing a 17-year-old ISIS prisoner to death, posing with his corpse, and sending the photo to friends.
    the letter from Gaetz [to Trump] stated […] “bias against the warfighter that is completely political in nature”

    Article: DailyBeast – Matt Gaetz Honors Accused Murderer at Committee Hearing

    the new Republican majority instituted a change in procedure: Before every hearing, everyone in the room would recite the Pledge of Allegiance. […] The honor of leading the first pledge was given to Corey Beekman
    Beekman allegedly shot and killed 33-year old Billy Buchanan inside a home in rural Mason County, Michigan, and was arrested by police after a lengthy standoff.
    Gaetz explained himself by arguing that when a veteran contacts his staff, “our first thoughts aren’t, ‘let’s run a background check’ or ‘I wonder if this person had any run-ins with the law that might make someone look bad.’”

  13. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Er, Gaetz. Rogue autocorrect? Or rogue phonetic fingers.

  14. wzrd1 says

    Well, it’s nice to have what I’ve long said confirmed.
    The United States of America has the absolute best government that money can buy.

  15. Andrew G. says

    birgerjohansson @11: impeachment requires a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate.

  16. The very model of a modern armchair general says

    Another anecdote about how seriously the regular people take their ethical duties: a couple of years ago, I was on a tour group that visited the Capitol in Washington DC. A friend of a friend of somebody in the group, who worked as a staffer, had agreed to show us around. At the end of the tour, we presented them with a thank-you card and a box of chocolates. They said “uh… hold on a minute” and disappeared into an office for a few minutes. They returned to say that they could accept the card, but not the chocolates.

  17. StevoR says

    @ ^ The very model of a modern armchair general :

    Former NSW Premier r Barry O’Farrell resigned in 2014 over a bottle of wine given as a gift once.

    See :

    But then we’ve had the likes of Dutton and Scummo having multuiple far mroe serious scandals include the multiple sectret ministires of Scummo, RoboDebt, :

    Plus so much more :

    Which convention would once have said any one of which should have ended careers yet none – or maybe just one or two actually did. Like with Trump, corruption and more has become normalsied and expected rather than seem as disqualifyingt. Time some conventions eg resigning on scandals were made law I think.

  18. rrutis1 says

    PZ, I have a bike trailer I could pick you up in. But the travel times will be limited to how many PB&J sandwiches I can eat!

  19. whheydt says

    Re: birgerjohansson @ #11…
    (Andrew G. @ #17 needs to pay attention, too.) The Senate cannot impeach. An impeachment (which is very like an indictment) is done in the House and takes a simple majority to pass. Once the person is impeached, it goes to the Senate to be tried. The entire Senate acts as a jury. To convict requires a 2/3 majority in the Senate.
    Thus, 3 US Presidents have been impeached (Trump, twice), but none have been convicted.