Seventy-Four Democrats Want Clarence Thomas to Recuse Himself Over Ginni-Gate

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 9 2011 2:40 PM

Seventy-Four Democrats Want Clarence Thomas to Recuse Himself Over Ginni-Gate

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, swings for the low-hanging fruit, with 73 colleagues.

As Common Cause points out, you "participated in secretive political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the [5-4] decision" on the Citizens United case. Your spouse also received an undisclosed salary paid for by undisclosed donors as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that stood to benefit from the decision and played an active role in the 2010 elections.

Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household's financial gain through your spouse's activities and your role as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the US Supreme Court's decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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Here's the whole letter with signatures . Thomas, of course, doesn't have to do anything. But when complaints are put on the record like this, it lends legitimacy. Alice Batchelder, a 6th Circuit Court judge who's married to Ohio's state House speaker, avoided trouble over her failure to recuse herself in a political case because Democrats didn't ask for it until after the case was heard.

UPDATE: I interviewed Weiner briefly about the letter.

SLATE: The story broke on Friday, so how quickly did this come together?

WEINER: We got 74 members in 45 minutes. It wasn't a particularly tough sell. There were a few who signed it and said, "Is impeachment next?" There are people with general degrees of frustration about the Supreme Court, and I'm usually one of them, but the problem was very clear in this specific case.

SLATE: And why do it? I've noticed that in smaller, local cases where judges have to recuse themselves because of their spouse's political work, problems arise if no one actually complains about it.

WEINER: There are just so many elements to this that are problematic. There's a federal statute directly on this point. Are we disputing that he has a financial interest here? It's clear that he does. If you look at the financial disclosure form that associate justices have to fill out, it's not like the forms that members of Congress or people in the administration have to fill out. It's really short and really easy. He had to check "no reportable income," and it's not a small amount to report!

SLATE: The argument here is that Thomas at least needs to recuse himself from a health care case when it comes up. Should Elena Kagan recuse herself if that comes up?

WEINER: Justice Kagan has recused herself in a bunch of cases. She was asked about this in confirmation, whether she was involved in the effort for the health care law, and she said something along the lines of 'I was not directly involved with the law, it only came up in one meeting, and it came up briefly. No, i don't think just because you worked in one place in an administration you need to recuse yourself for a bill passed during the administration. And she wasn't even in the  administration when the law was actually signed by the president.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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