Friday, July 1, 2022
HomeOpinionOp-EdsFor The Sake of American Democracy, Justice Clarence Thomas Should Recuse Himself

For The Sake of American Democracy, Justice Clarence Thomas Should Recuse Himself

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas faced backlash from the public following the disclosure of text message exchanges between his wife and conservative activist, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. 

Following the news that Joe Biden was the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election, text messages reveal that Ginni Thomas used her connections in support of the former presidential administration’s attempt of rescinding the election results by turning to the Supreme Court. The messages were revealed by the House Select Committee during the investigation on the Jan. 6 riot.

“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!” Ginni Thomas writes. “The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

Meadow’s attorney George Terwilliger III expressed that “nothing about the text messages presents any legal issues.” However, it is critical to note the obvious issues at hand.

52% of the American public calls for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from the Trump v. Thompson insurrection case. The case consists of an investigation into the extent of Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riot and the question of whether or not the former president could apply his right to Executive Privilege. The Trump administration claimed that the former president held the right to refusing to turn over documents to the committee pertaining to the investigation on the grounds that he could apply his executive privilege. This claim has been brushed over by the Supreme Court as of recently with the implication that it is significantly weak.

While the individual votes of each justice have not been shared, Justice Thomas was the lone dissenter on the matter. His position brings into concern the credibility of his decision. 

So, should the justice of the High Court recuse himself from the aforementioned case given the nature of the political controversy caused by his wife, whose behavior is akin to that of a “right-wing lobbyist?

For the sake of the delicacy of American democracy, he should.

Unlike federal judges, Supreme Court justices are not under an obligation to abide by the same code of conduct imposed upon the judges of the lower courts. Lines blur in regards to guidelines like Canon 2, which states that a judge “should not allow family, social, political, financial, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment.” Because Supreme Court justices are able to treat their rulebook as a suggestion box, the public should take their decisions with a grain of salt. Justice Thomas has the ability to sway from one end of the political pendulum to the other if he sees fit. The ‘how’ in how he became the lone dissenter of the Jan. 6 riot case becomes more questionable if we ask ‘why.’ 

Why did Justice Clarence Thomas dissent from the majority in regards to this case? Why has he not yet recused himself?

Although his failure to recuse himself does not necessarily mean he has committed judicial misconduct, it is important to understand the threat that this controversy imposes to the very system of American democracy. The lack of a Supreme Court code of conduct implies the members of our highest court have the opportunity to, quite frankly, reign supreme. Justice Thomas maintaining his current position on the case showcases that our judicial system is corrupt and lenient to political ideology, disrupting the checks and balances on which the foundation of our constitution is built upon. No matter which way Justice Thomas votes, the text messages sent by his wife Ginni Thomas in favor of the lawsuit ultimately weakens his credibility on the matter altogether. 

The Justice of the Supreme Court’s failure to recuse himself comes from a place of pride rather than civic responsibility. 

The American people will not forget this moving forward. 

Jean Bootan is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at jbootan@uci.edu