The top Senate Judiciary Committee member said the panel would act after allegations that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas acted unethically by accepting gifts from a rich friend.
An investigation by ProPublica highlighted the longtime friendship between Justice Thomas and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.
The two met in the 1990s and have mutual interests. Crow has financed a library dedicated to the Justice, bought him lavish gifts, and invited Thomas and his wife on many group vacations.
It seems every few years their friendship is shuffled back into the spotlight with allegations of ethical violations.
In 2011, the New York Times published a similar piece, where one of its judicial experts noted, “I don’t think I could say it’s unethical. It’s just a very peculiar situation.”
Crow responded in a statement, saying, “The hospitality we have extended to the Thomas’s over the years is no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends. Justice Thomas and Ginni never asked for any of this hospitality.”
He also emphasized, “We have never asked about a pending or lower court case, and Justice Thomas has never discussed one, and we have never sought to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issue.”
“More generally, I am unaware of any of our friends ever lobbying or seeking to influence Justice Thomas on any case, and I would never invite anyone who I believe had any intention of doing that. These are gatherings of friends.”
Still, that hasn’t stopped publications from bringing it back up, and currently elected Democrats continue to act outraged.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said ProPublica’s report was a “call to action” and that the Supreme Court must adhere to an enforceable code of conduct.
“The highest court in the land shouldn’t have the lowest ethical standards,” he said.
The Supreme Court is not currently bound by any code of ethics and largely polices itself on those concerns. Many Justices accept gifts and attend events with political overtones, as the New York Times reported.
But Thomas specifically has attracted new attention.
“This is beyond party or partisanship,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said on Twitter. “This degree of corruption is shocking — almost cartoonish. Thomas must be impeached.”