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Thomas Cites Failure To Disclose Wife’s Job

Publication Date: 
January 24, 2011
The New York Times
Eric Lichtblau

Professor Deborah L. Rhode comments on the ethical questions raised by Justice Thomas's failure to disclose his wife's past employment. The New York Times has the story:

Under pressure from liberal critics, Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court acknowledged in filings released on Monday that he erred by not disclosing his wife’s past employment as required by federal law.

Justice Thomas said that in his annual financial disclosure statements over the last six years, the employment of his wife, Virginia Thomas, was “inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions.”


Deborah L. Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in judicial ethics, said the recent episodes could do some harm to Justice Thomas’s reputation. But she added that it was unlikely to have any lasting impact on him or on the disclosure requirements that give justices wide leeway to decide whether they have a financial conflict in hearing a case.

Professor Rhode noted, for instance, that it was still unknown who contributed a total of $550,000 to Liberty Central, the conservative legal group that Mrs. Thomas founded in 2009 in opposition to President Obama’s policies. The amended disclosures filed by Justice Thomas, which do not include income in 2010, do not mention Liberty Central, and no regulation requires the group or the Thomases to disclose the source of the group’s financial support. Mrs. Thomas left the group in the fall.

“There’s no formal mechanism for review of conflicts among Supreme Court justices,” Professor Rhode said. “Personally, I think issues like this are somewhat scandalous for the court, but from what we’ve seen when these issues have come up before, I don’t see that changing.”