-by Bruce Ticker
June 28, 2011- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's shameless violation of judicial ethics cries out for a better way to choose justices and keep them accountable.
He is above the law that lists ethics rules for federal judges who serve on the lower courts, but he should have known better than to get so cozy with Harlan Crow, a major donor to conservative causes from Dallas.
When he retired in 1991, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall predicted that the elder President Bush might replace him with a black conservative.
Thomas's tenure openly mocked Marshall's bid to advocate for the concerns of the black community, and concerns that affect all Americans.
Thomas benefits from a system that protects justices from accountability and was selected through an undemocratic process.
The justices are not bound by the code of conduct for federal judges on grounds that a panel of judges who rank below the justices is charged with enforcing it.
Maybe that's why Thomas flouted the code's clause requiring that judges "should not personally participate" in raising funds for charitable initiatives.
The New York Times listed instances which have or might have compromised Thomas's performance.
Thomas violated the code for federal judges by seeking Crow's help in financing the purchase and restoration of a former seafood cannery in Pin Point, Ga., where his mother worked. Thomas has made it a pet project to establish a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point.
This venture began a few years before when Thomas met owner Algernon Varn. Thomas asked about plans for the property and Varn said he wanted to preserve it. Thomas informed Varn of a friend he would "put you in touch with." That was Crow.
Law professor Deborah L. Rhode said that Thomas "should not be directly involved in fund-raising activities, no matter how worthy they are whether he's being centrally honored by the museum."
Common Cause attorney Arn Pearson said, "The code of conduct is quite clear that judges are not supposed to be soliciting money for their pet projects or charities, period. If any other federal judge was doing that, he could face disciplinary action."
Thomas was the lone dissenter in 2006 when the Project on Fair Representation challenged federal voting rights laws. The project is sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute; Crow is an AEI trustee.
In 2001, AEI presented Thomas with a bust of Abraham Lincoln valued at $15,000 and praised his judicial performance at an awards gala. The suit was litigated – pro bono – by a former clerk for Thomas.
Such a cozy circle.