Watchdog Group Says Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Appears to Have 'Knowingly and Willfully' Violated Rule of Law for Twenty Years by Falsifying Disclosure Forms
Group Charges That Justice Thomas Receiving Special Treatment
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The words "EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW" are famously chiseled above the main portico of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. But it appears that Justice Clarence Thomas is instead receiving special treatment under the law, says the watchdog group, www.ProtectOurElections.org.
Evidence is mounting that Justice Thomas violated federal law from 1989 through the present by failing to report his wife's annual salary by checking "NONE" on the box for "Non-Investment Income" on judicial AO 10 Financial Disclosure Reports. Seven of those forms can be found at http://protectourelections.org/index.php?q=node/105.
According to the "self-initiated amendment" letters signed by Thomas on Friday, January 21, 2011 and stamped as "RECEIVED" by the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Committee on Financial Disclosure on Saturday, January 22, 2011, the Justice failed to reveal sources of spousal income even on his original disclosure forms during his contentious 1991 confirmation hearings. ProtectOurElections.org received copies of those amendments and posted them on its website at http://www.velvetrevolution.us/images/clarence_Thomas-FD_amendments.pdf.
One of the amendments hastily filed last week by Thomas states that he "inadvertently omitted" spousal income from as far back as 1989 "due to a misunderstanding of filing instructions." Virginia Thomas' income from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, totaling $686,589 from 2003 to 2009 was omitted from the forms entirely, as was her Heritage Foundation employment from 1998 to 2003 and other sources of "non-investment income" from as early as 1989.
The forms that Justice Thomas signed warned him that a false statement could subject him to civil and criminal sanctions. "NOTE: ANY INDIVIDUAL WHO KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY FALSIFIES OR FAILS TO FILE THIS REPORT MAY BE SUBJECT TO CIVIL AND CRIMINAL SANCTIONS (5 U.S.C. app. section 104)" The statute referenced there, 5 U.S.C. app. section 104, defines the "civil and criminal sanctions" for "knowingly and willfully falsif[ying]" the report, as a fine "not to exceed $50,000" and "imprison[ment] for not more than 1 year, or both" for each violation.
Moreover, under Title 18, United States Code, section 1001, it is a crime to:
1.knowingly and willfully;
2.make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation;
3.in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States. (emphasis added)
While 5 USC app section 104 makes this conduct a misdemeanor punishable for up to a year in prison, 18 USC section 1001 is a felony statute carrying at least five years in prison. In fact, Fraser Verrusio, former Policy Director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is awaiting trial under section 1001 for not reporting income on his "United States House of Representatives Financial Disclosure Statement for Calendar Year 2003."
Moreover, in UNITED STATES v. WOODWARD, 469 U.S. 105 (1985), in a case decided by the Supreme Court, the defendant, after checking the "no" box on a U.S. Customs form, was punished for both the false statement (18 USC section 1001) violation and the misdemeanor charge of failing to report the currency itself — all as a result of checking the "no" box.
Common Cause President Bob Edgar characterized Thomas' claim that there was a "misunderstanding of the filing instructions," as stated on his "self-initiated amendments," as "difficult to believe" and "implausible." Kevin Zeese, attorney and spokesperson for ProtectOurElections.org, believes that Justice Thomas may have intentionally withheld the information in order to keep litigants from moving to disqualify him in cases where his wife's employment could cause a conflict of interest or where she could benefit from a decision. "Justice Thomas cast a critical vote in the Citizens United case allowing conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and Liberty Central to raise millions of dollars in secret funds to support and elect conservative politicians," he said. "Had Justice Thomas disclosed that his wife worked for the Heritage Foundation, litigants may have had good cause to disqualify him from hearing that case. In fact, we are left to wonder if Justice Thomas knew that his wife was planning on leaving the Heritage Foundation to launch Liberty Central once Citizens United was decided. Clearly, she has benefitted personally from that decision."
Upon seeing the January 22, 2011 file stamp on Justice Thomas' amended forms, ProtectOurElections.org phoned officials at the Judicial Conference to determine if receiving such materials on Saturday is normal or if special accommodations were made for Justice Thomas. The receptionist who answered confirmed that the Financial Disclosure office, like most federal offices, is closed for public business on Saturday. No one else at the office would explain whether Justice Thomas received special treatment by being allowed to file his amendments when the office was closed. Reporter Brad Friedman from The Brad Blog also called the office and received the same information
ProtectOurElections.org has called for a criminal investigation of this matter, an audit of all Supreme Court cases possibly affected by Justice Thomas' non-disclosure, and for an ethics probe