The Left Attacks Justice Thomas While Ignoring Problems with Jackson's Nomination

The Left's latest attack on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has gone too far... again. This time, they are joining forces with the media to question the integrity of Justice Thomas because of his wife's involvement in political activities. Mark Paoletta writes for Newsweek:

The legacy corporate media has launched an unprecedented smear campaign against Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, falsely claiming that Justice Thomas is violating ethics laws in light of his wife's political activities. Some have even advocated impeaching Justice Thomas for failing to recuse. They are, in effect, demanding a new standard for recusal that has no place in the law or in past practice.

Many judges are married to people who work in politics and public policy, and they frequently decide cases on which their spouses have opined. The recusal statute requires judges to recuse if their families could financially gain from a decision or if a reasonable observer might question their impartiality.

What makes the attacks on Justice Thomas even more ludicrous is the fact that his wife does not practice law. In the past, Justices were not required to recuse themselves even when their own spouse belonged to a firm representing clients before the Court.

[T]he press now singles out Justice Thomas, calling on him to recuse because of his wife's activities. Ginni Thomas is a longtime conservative activist who works with groups that take public positions on issues and sometimes even file amicus briefs at the Supreme Court. But unlike the spouses and children of other judges, Ginni does not practice law, much less write briefs. She merely builds conservative coalitions to pursue shared political aims. None of her activities require Justice Thomas to recuse.

While maliciously attacking Justice Thomas, those on the left are simultaneously scoffing at the idea that Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson should recuse herself, if confirmed, from an upcoming affirmative action case involving Harvard University where she serves on a governing board. Ed Whelan explains:

Judge Jackson has been a member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers since 2016. As Harvard itself explains, its Board of Overseers is one of Harvard’s two “governing boards.” Together with the Harvard Corporation (also known as the President and Fellows of Harvard College), the Board of Overseers “help[s] to shape the University’s agenda, inquire into the quality and progress of its activities, and assure that Harvard remains true to its mission.” It “provides counsel to the University’s leadership on priorities, plans, and strategic initiatives.”

The federal statute on judicial recusal states: “Any justice … shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” In many instances, it might be unclear whether that provision governs. But in other instances it is clear.

Plainly, this is one of those clear cases. Whelan continues:

Assume that a person served on the board of directors of Coca-Cola at a time when a lawsuit against Coca-Cola was pending. That person, after stepping down from Coke’s board, gets appointed to the Supreme Court, and that very lawsuit ends up in the Court for decision. Would anyone argue that the justice could take part in deciding the case?

I don’t see how Judge Jackson’s situation is any different. Surely, given the scope of the Board of Overseers’ responsibilities, Harvard’s odd structure of two governing boards doesn’t matter. (I would think that even service on a purely advisory board would warrant recusal.) Nor do I see how it would matter whether Judge Jackson took part in any discussions regarding the case or Harvard’s admissions policies, just as I don’t think it would matter whether the Coke director ever discussed the lawsuit against Coke.

As Paoletta concludes, there is a clear double standard for black conservatives:

The media are weaponizing baseless ethics charges to smear a conservative black Justice. Thomas infuriates them because he expresses views they consider unacceptable for a black man to hold, and because an increasing number of Justices are aligned with those views and may be ready to issue rulings that undercut longstanding liberal precedents. 

The Left should be ashamed of their relentless attacks on Justice Thomas, but unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the last time they do so. Justices (and potential justices) should be held to the same ethical standards regardless of what their ideological beliefs are.