Does Justice Clarence Thomas Have a Looming Conflict-of-Interest Issue?

His wife’s financial connection to health care reform opponents may be cause for recusal

Posted: 06/03/2011 04:15 PM EDT
Filed Under Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas first found himself in hot water two decades ago when, at his confirmation hearing to join the highest court, a former subordinate of his claimed that Thomas made unwanted sexual advances toward her. Despite Anita Hill’s allegations, Thomas was allowed to join the court, where he’s been a staunchly conservative justice ever since. Now, Thomas’ judicial abilities are being called into question yet again. This time, however, it’s Thomas’ wife who’s embroiling him.


For those who don’t know, Thomas’ wife Virginia Thomas is an ultra-conservative political activist in Virginia. Thomas is so involved in right-wing Virginia politics, in fact, that she was once the president and CEO of Liberty Central, a group that, among other things, made itself outwardly and wholly opposed to President Obama’s health care reform bill.


Normally, this might not be a problem. Virginia is a citizen and has every right to have an opinion about politics. What is a problem, however, is that a slew of lawsuits have been filed against the health care reform law, and the expectation is that those suits will find their way to the Supreme Court, where Clarence Thomas will ultimately have a say. Considering that Clarence’s significant other has stood in vehement opposition to Obama’s reform, is that fair?


Perhaps not, and many are calling for Thomas to recuse himself. The question is simple: Could you stay impartial on an issue for which your husband or wife was paid nearly $150,000 to decry? Thomas’ colleagues have done this in the past, particularly when they have financial interests in the case before them. This sounds like one of those cases, and Thomas should disqualify himself. If he doesn’t, expect a dogfight from liberals.