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Supreme Court Justice Thomas failed to disclose 3 trips on billionaire's private jet

The Supreme Court adopted a new code of conduct last year, but many say there is no enforcement behind it.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Posted at 11:43 AM, Jun 14, 2024

There are new revelations out of Capitol Hill this week regarding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and three trips he took on a billionaire's private jet.

Documents obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee show that Thomas never disclosed the trips he took to Montana, California and Georgia, all on a plane provided by Texas businessman and Republican donor Harlan Crow. Committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin said the documents were acquired by subpoena as part of an investigation into Supreme Court ethics.

"The Supreme Court’s ethical crisis is producing new information — like what we’ve revealed today — and makes it crystal clear that the highest court needs an enforceable code of conduct, because its members continue to choose not to meet the moment," Durbin said in a statement.

Justice Clarence Thomas is shown.

Supreme Court

Justice Thomas formally discloses donor-paid trips

Alex Arger
4:02 PM, Jun 07, 2024

The Supreme Court adopted a new code of conduct last year, though many say there is no enforcement behind it.

Just last week, Thomas officially disclosed that Crow had paid for two other trips the justice went on in 2019, information his financial disclosure report says was "inadvertently omitted" on earlier forms. The trips have been at the center of controversy and criticism surrounding lavish gifts Supreme Court justices receive, particularly after ProPublica uncovered near-yearly vacations Thomas has accepted from Crow that had also gone undisclosed.

These annual disclosure reports, which were released last week and are required by law, are supposed to give a look at just how much outside income, travel and gifts the president-appointed Supreme Court justices receive. That of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson shows she received concert tickets worth $3,700 from Beyoncé, and multiple justices — including Jackson, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor — reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in advances and royalties for their books.

The Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington

Supreme Court

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Scripps News Staff
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At the time of the ProPublica report, Thomas had said he wasn't required to report the trips under the ethics rules then because they were a form of "personal hospitality." Another report from Fix the Court said justices over the last two decades have received nearly $4.8 million in gifts, more than $4 million of which were received by Thomas.

A full report from the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to be released later this summer. Meanwhile, Durbin is urging Congress to pass a law that would require the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of conduct that justices must abide by.

"We are providing the American public greater clarity on the extent of ethical lapses by Supreme Court justices and the need for ethics reform," Durbin said. "Despite an approval rating near all-time lows and never-ending, self-inflicted scandals, Chief Justice Roberts still refuses to use his existing authority to implement an enforceable code of conduct. Until he acts, we will continue our push for the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act to become law."