Calmes: Clarence Thomas’ Jan. 6 conflicts of interest are showing again
There is a growing belief that Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court justice, is about to lose two-thirds of his remaining 12-member majority. His most recent actions on the court reflect that belief.
When he recused himself on the nomination of a conservative who he knew — but whom he had never met — was under investigation for potential corruption, Thomas failed to recuse himself from the criminal trial that followed.
A week after his recusal, the judge issued an order in a sexual harassment case in which he was presiding over claims that he was personally involved in sexual misconduct by a subordinate.
The decision to recuse himself from a case in which he had personal knowledge is one of several recent conflicts of interest that should worry Thomas’s remaining colleagues on the high court.
And even if Thomas did not meet the judge, who was a current subordinate, until after his nomination, the actions by the justice were a misuse of his office that could give voters a sense of how the court will operate in the future.
A judge cannot be a judge for life. The Senate has a process for dealing with conflict situations, but the issue of recusal that has gained national attention is when an individual on the appellate court is nominated to a lifetime position on the federal bench.
The Supreme Court and other circuits have established standards for assessing recusal and for identifying those who are most likely to be affected by an opinion issued by a justice. When the justice is a candidate, then, the standard for recusal is no different than a nominee applying for a district court or the 10th circuit.
But the Supreme Court’s recusal process is unique. The decision on whether or not to grant a recusal involves only four justices, and the decision is made by a majority vote. The question then becomes whether a justice may continue to participate in the proceedings when there is a possibility that he may be required to recuse himself.
But Thomas has made it clear that he does not view himself as a judge with whom he must share his views of the law and the facts in the cases before him. He made clear what he believes when he said to the Senate Judiciary Committee on hearing a potential nominee that �