Q&A: Supreme Court Ethics & Conflicts

questionGot a question about the Supreme Court’s ethics oversight or Justice Clarence Thomas’ conflict of interest? Wondering how Thomas’ wife’s job might compromise his judgment, or why the mere appearance of bias matters? Lay it on us. We’ll answer each and every question. Because it’s critical that everyone know and understand what’s happening here.

Answers to questions will be posted over the next few days, in no particular order. Keep sending your questions and we’ll keep answering them!

_______________________________________________________

Question: Has Thomas addressed the issue in any way or even acknowledged the possibility of there being a problem? (submitted by David W Yuhnke via Facebook)

Answer: Justice Thomas has not commented on the possibility of a conflict of interests. In response to another letter from Common Cause, Justice Thomas amended his annual financial disclosure forms to include his wife’s sources of income. His only comment came in the letter he filed with the amended forms: “It has come to my attention that information regarding my spouse’s employment required in Part III B of my financial disclosure report was inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions.”

Comment: Common Cause finds this explanation implausible given that Justice Thomas correctly disclosed his wife’s income for several years before the period in question. Additionally, his stature as one of the top nine legal experts in the country make it unlikely that he would misunderstand simple yes-or-no questions.

_______________________________________________________

Question: Has any Supreme Court justice ever been impeached? (submitted by Liz Yurko Carmer via Facebook)

Answer: Associate Justice Samuel Chase, who had served in he Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was appointed to the Supreme Court by President George Washington on February 4, 1796. Justice Chase was impeached by the House of Representatives  in 1804 for making partisan political remarks from the bench.  However, he was acquitted by the Senate and continued to serve on the court until his death on June 19, 1811.

In 1969, Associate Justice Abe Fortas resigned from the court under threat of impeachment for alleged financial improprieties.

Comment: Chase’s impeachment is most notable not for its outcome–Chase was not convicted–but for its long-term implications for members of the judiciary. American judges are generally expected to abstain from partisan politics in order to maintain impartiality and avoid the appearance of bias.

_______________________________________________________

Question: Is it possible to impeach a Supreme Court justice? (submitted by Thomas Perl via Facebook)

Answer: Article I, Sections 2 and 3, of the Constitution address the grounds for impeachment: “the President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The definition of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ has been subject to ongoing debate. In 1960, then-Representative Gerald Ford said “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

Comment: Though it seems ambiguous now, the phrase ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ likely held more specific meaning to the framers of the Constitution, who were familiar with its use in the British parliament. The phrase was explained by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 65 as “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

21 Responses to “Q&A: Supreme Court Ethics & Conflicts”

  1. If Justice Thomas and Scalia refuse to recuse themselves, what happens then? What are the different scenarios of outcomes? Would Justice Thomas & Scalia be subjected to a panel of judges in charge of judicial oversight or would this need to go to the US House for impeachment proceedings?

    What happens to the court cases like Citizens United if these justices are found to have a conflict of interest / ethics issue? Do these cases get thrown out (i.e., invalidated) or do these cases get to be retried by the Supreme Court without these Justices?

  2. If Justice Thomas and Scalia refuse to recuse themselves, what happens then? What are the different scenarios of outcomes? Would Justice Thomas & Scalia be subjected to a panel of judges in charge of judicial oversight or would this need to go to the US House for impeachment proceedings?

    What happens to the court cases like Citizens United if these justices are found to have a conflict of interest / ethics issue? Do these cases get thrown out (i.e., invalidated) or do these cases get to be retried by the Supreme Court without these Justices?

  3. If Justice Thomas and Scalia refuse to recuse themselves, what happens then? What are the different scenarios of outcomes? Would Justice Thomas & Scalia be subjected to a panel of judges in charge of judicial oversight or would this need to go to the US House for impeachment proceedings?

    What happens to the court cases like Citizens United if these justices are found to have a conflict of interest / ethics issue? Do these cases get thrown out (i.e., invalidated) or do these cases get to be retried by the Supreme Court without these Justices?

  4. Do we still have any power aside from the local as voters or do the coporations now how nearly absolute control?

  5. Do we still have any power aside from the local as voters or do the coporations now how nearly absolute control?

  6. Do we still have any power aside from the local as voters or do the coporations now how nearly absolute control?

  7. Is it the case in this country, that when Supreme Court Judge’s misbehave that there is no way to remove them from the bench? If there is no term limit to the job, and no way to remove them, aside from absolute proof of a crime; then what makes them different from a Monarch?

  8. Is it the case in this country, that when Supreme Court Judge’s misbehave that there is no way to remove them from the bench? If there is no term limit to the job, and no way to remove them, aside from absolute proof of a crime; then what makes them different from a Monarch?

  9. Is it the case in this country, that when Supreme Court Judge’s misbehave that there is no way to remove them from the bench? If there is no term limit to the job, and no way to remove them, aside from absolute proof of a crime; then what makes them different from a Monarch?

  10. When the LA Times originally reported on this story they quoted Northwestern University Law professor and judicial ethics expert Steven Lubet claiming that what Thomas did in falsifying his financial disclosure forms was “not a crime of any sort”.

    My investigation of the matter — http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8331 — reveals quite the opposite, and that what Thomas did a crime with serious penalties (such as 1 year in jail or $50,000 fine for each such instance).

    So, who’s got it right? Me or the Northwestern Law professor?

    And have you been able to get an explanation from him for his comment? Because I’ve tried multiple times, via both email and phone, and he has not returned my request for clarification of his comment.

  11. When the LA Times originally reported on this story they quoted Northwestern University Law professor and judicial ethics expert Steven Lubet claiming that what Thomas did in falsifying his financial disclosure forms was “not a crime of any sort”.

    My investigation of the matter — http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8331 — reveals quite the opposite, and that what Thomas did a crime with serious penalties (such as 1 year in jail or $50,000 fine for each such instance).

    So, who’s got it right? Me or the Northwestern Law professor?

    And have you been able to get an explanation from him for his comment? Because I’ve tried multiple times, via both email and phone, and he has not returned my request for clarification of his comment.

  12. When the LA Times originally reported on this story they quoted Northwestern University Law professor and judicial ethics expert Steven Lubet claiming that what Thomas did in falsifying his financial disclosure forms was “not a crime of any sort”.

    My investigation of the matter — http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8331 — reveals quite the opposite, and that what Thomas did a crime with serious penalties (such as 1 year in jail or $50,000 fine for each such instance).

    So, who’s got it right? Me or the Northwestern Law professor?

    And have you been able to get an explanation from him for his comment? Because I’ve tried multiple times, via both email and phone, and he has not returned my request for clarification of his comment.

  13. In 1969, Abe Fortas was driven from the Supreme Court for taking speaking fees. Is there a parallel here?

  14. In 1969, Abe Fortas was driven from the Supreme Court for taking speaking fees. Is there a parallel here?

  15. In 1969, Abe Fortas was driven from the Supreme Court for taking speaking fees. Is there a parallel here?

  16. Are Mrs & Mrs Thomas using his position on the Supreme Court to reap financial benefit from his ruling positively with respect to right-wing causes?

    He earns about $219,000/yr from the Court, she gets over $170,000 from the Heritage PAC alone. If he weren’t on the court, would she be getting paid as much? Of course not.

    Meanwhile, he never asks a question or speaks a word of any kind over a period of years while serving on the Supreme Court. Now we know why.

  17. Are Mrs & Mrs Thomas using his position on the Supreme Court to reap financial benefit from his ruling positively with respect to right-wing causes?

    He earns about $219,000/yr from the Court, she gets over $170,000 from the Heritage PAC alone. If he weren’t on the court, would she be getting paid as much? Of course not.

    Meanwhile, he never asks a question or speaks a word of any kind over a period of years while serving on the Supreme Court. Now we know why.

  18. Are Mrs & Mrs Thomas using his position on the Supreme Court to reap financial benefit from his ruling positively with respect to right-wing causes?

    He earns about $219,000/yr from the Court, she gets over $170,000 from the Heritage PAC alone. If he weren’t on the court, would she be getting paid as much? Of course not.

    Meanwhile, he never asks a question or speaks a word of any kind over a period of years while serving on the Supreme Court. Now we know why.

  19. Why does the Code of Judicial Conduct NOT apply to Supreme Court justices? As the highest arbiters of law which affects every American citizen it should!

    Are we working to get it applied to them?

  20. Why does the Code of Judicial Conduct NOT apply to Supreme Court justices? As the highest arbiters of law which affects every American citizen it should!

    Are we working to get it applied to them?

  21. Why does the Code of Judicial Conduct NOT apply to Supreme Court justices? As the highest arbiters of law which affects every American citizen it should!

    Are we working to get it applied to them?