Senate Democrats Are Considering Inviting Clarence Thomas to a Future Supreme Court Ethics Hearing

Justice Clarence Thomas’s association with a rich GOP donor has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks, and Senate Democrats are considering inviting him to testify at an upcoming hearing on the Supreme Court’s ethical standards.

Hearing details were discussed at a meeting of Judiciary Committee Democrats on Monday evening in the office of Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). There will be a series of hearings. This time frame, hopefully. “Perhaps in the next few weeks,” remarked Connecticut Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal after the gathering.

Blumenthal said he hoped Thomas would voluntarily answer the committee’s questions rather than risk a political firestorm by being subpoenaed. When asked by reporters earlier in the day if he would consider subpoenaing Thomas for his testimony, Durbin said that his panel will “talk about a number of options.”

Senate Dems Weighing a Clarence Thomas
Senate Dems Weighing a Clarence Thomas

Blumenthal said Thomas’ actions were “high on the list” of things addressed Monday night, adding that no decision has been made on who else should testify. Even though Thomas may be called to testify, Durbin hasn’t said for sure. If Justice Thomas were to decline such an invitation, Democrats may seek a subpoena, which would very certainly be challenged in court.

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In a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, Democrats on the judiciary committee asked Roberts to look into Thomas’s acceptance of lavish trips and gifts from Republican supporter Harlan Crow without disclosing it. ProPublica later reported in more on the sale of three properties in Georgia to Crow, including the home where Thomas’ mother currently resides.

“What he did is really unprecedented, the magnitude of the gifts and luxury travel but the money changing hands and the nondisclosure,” said Blumenthal. While senators hold out hope that the Supreme Court will act on its own, Durbin indicated that his group would be willing to hear suggestions to put a formal code of ethics on the court.

“This reflects on the integrity of the Supreme Court. [Roberts] should take the initiative and initiate his own investigation and promise results that answer this problem directly,” the chair said on Monday.

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