Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is facing new questions over ethics concerns as the Senate Judiciary Committee continues to scrutinize the matter.
Chairman Dick Durbin said Sunday that “everything is on the table” and that the panel would be gathering evidence and information to draw conclusions.
The controversy surrounds Thomas‘ acceptance of lavish trips and gifts from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, which have gone mostly unreported on the justice‘s financial disclosures. ProPublica reported that Crow also purchased several real estate properties, including the home where Thomas’ mother lives, from the Thomas family and paid boarding school tuition for Thomas’ grandnephew.
Thomas has said he followed the advice of others in deciding what required disclosure and, in a statement last month, noted that that Crow did not have business before the court.
The extent to which these transactions and hospitality should have been reported by Thomas has been the subject of debate among judicial ethics experts, who have noted that a recently closed loophole for certain “personal hospitality” may have covered some of the luxury trips.
The debate over Supreme Court ethics was the subject of a Senate Judiciary hearing last week that featured testimony from a law professor, legal advocates, and two former judges.
Chief Justice John Roberts has declined to testify in a hearing on Supreme Court ethics, citing separation of powers concerns. But Durbin maintained Sunday that “this is the Roberts court, and history is going to judge him by the decision he makes on this.”
“He has the power to make the difference,” Durbin added.
The controversy over Justice Thomas’ ethics has prompted some Republicans to call for more transparency around the court, though they have voiced resistance to the Democratic push for Congress to impose a code of conduct on the justices.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee continues to investigate the matter, it remains to be seen how the Roberts court will handle the controversy. With the nation watching, it could be a defining moment for the Supreme Court and for the legacy of Chief Justice Roberts.