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More Unethical Behavior by Supreme Court Justices?

Bob Edgar of Common Cause reported this: “In a front-page story, the New York Times reported Sunday, June 19th, 2011, that Justice Clarence Thomas may have been traveling on a billionaire developer’s private jet and yacht without disclosing those trips on annual reports required of all judges. Justice Thomas also reportedly arranged for the developer to donate $175,000 to create a museum in an historic cannery where the justice’s mother once worked.

Our federal courts have a code of conduct that prohibits judges from taking part in fundraising, however worthy the cause. But the code does not apply to the Supreme Court, and it should. The Supreme Court is the pinnacle of our justice system, and Americans need to be confident that the justices are beyond reproach and adhering to the highest ethical standards.”

In another essay on this website on August 14, 2011, I reported suspiciously unethical activities concerning Supreme Court Justices Alito and Scalia. Today’s essay discusses Justice Clarence Thomas. Americans have a right to know what activities the high court’s justices may be doing in undermining the secular sacredness of our U.S. Constitution. By taking advantage of their positions, justices call into focus possible corruption at the highest level of our judicial system. All justices are under suspicion; yet only a few have been exposed.

This is a reprint from the New York Times article, June 19, 2011, “Friendship of Justice and Magnate”:
“PIN POINT, Ga. — Clarence Thomas was here promoting his memoir a few years ago when he bumped into Algernon Varn, whose grandfather once ran a seafood cannery that employed Justice Thomas’s mother as a crab picker.
Algernon Varn, whose grandfather once ran a seafood cannery where Justice Clarence Thomas’s mother worked, on the site of the old cannery. Mr. Varn said Justice Thomas put him in touch with a buyer to restore the property and build a museum.
Mr. Varn lived at the old cannery site, a collection of crumbling buildings on a salt marsh just down the road from a sign heralding this remote coastal community outside Savannah as Justice Thomas’s birthplace. The justice asked about plans for the property, and Mr. Varn said he hoped it could be preserved.
“And Clarence said, ‘Well, I’ve got a friend I’m going to put you in touch with,’ ” Mr. Varn recalled, adding that he was later told by others not to identify the friend.
The publicity-shy friend turned out to be Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate and a major contributor to conservative causes. Mr. Crow stepped in to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery, featuring a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point that has become a pet project of Justice Thomas’s.
The project throws a spotlight on an unusual, and ethically sensitive, friendship that appears to be markedly different from those of other justices on the nation’s highest court.
The two men met in the mid-1990s, a few years after Justice Thomas joined the court. Since then, Mr. Crow has done many favors for the justice and his wife, Virginia, helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Justice Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for Ms. Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group. They have also spent time together at gatherings of prominent Republicans and businesspeople at Mr. Crow’s Adirondack’s estate and his camp in East Texas.
In several instances, news reports of Mr. Crow’s largess provoked controversy and questions, adding fuel to a rising debate about Supreme Court ethics. But Mr. Crow’s financing of the museum, his largest such act of generosity, previously unreported, raises the sharpest questions yet — both about Justice Thomas’s extrajudicial activities and about the extent to which the justices should remain exempt from the code of conduct for federal judges.
Although the Supreme Court is not bound by the code, justices have said they adhere to it. Legal ethicists differed on whether Justice Thomas’s dealings with Mr. Crow pose a problem under the code. But they agreed that one facet of the relationship was both unusual and important in weighing any ethical implications: Justice Thomas’s role in Mr. Crow’s donation for the museum.
The code says judges “should not personally participate” in raising money for charitable endeavors, out of concern that donors might feel pressured to give or entitled to favorable treatment from the judge. In addition, judges are not even supposed to know who donates to projects honoring them.
While the nonprofit Pin Point museum is not intended to honor Justice Thomas, people involved in the project said his role in the community’s history would inevitably be part of it, and he participated in a documentary film that is to accompany the exhibits.
Deborah L. Rhode, a Stanford University law professor who has called for stricter ethics rules for Supreme Court justices, said Justice Thomas “should not be directly involved in fund-raising activities, no matter how worthy they are or whether he’s being centrally honored by the museum.”
On the other hand, the restriction on fund-raising is primarily meant to deter judges from using their position to pressure donors, as opposed to relying on “a rich friend” like Mr. Crow, said Ronald D. Rotunda, who teaches legal ethics at Chapman University in California.
“I don’t think I could say it’s unethical,” he said. “It’s just a very peculiar situation.”
Justice Thomas, through a Supreme Court spokeswoman, declined to respond to a detailed set of questions submitted by The New York Times. Mr. Crow also would not comment.
Supreme Court ethics have been under increasing scrutiny, largely because of the activities of Justice Thomas and Ms. Thomas, whose group, Liberty Central, opposed President Obama’s health care overhaul — an issue likely to wind up before the court. Mr. Crow’s donation to Liberty Central was reported by Politico.”
I give you this information because the very fabric of our Constitution is being undermined everyday by someone in trusted authority. Supreme Court justices should NEVER have to be called into focus and be scrutinized. This is an intolerable situation. YOU the citizen can be a part of cleaning up the high court! Call or write your Senators and Congress representatives. Congress needs to be responsible to us by forcing the justices to adhere to the code of conduct!

4:51 pm | Posted in Democracy | Read More »

Democracy vs. Theocracy

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