Organizations ask chief justice to reprimand Thomas
5:11 pm, November 15th, 2013
Common Cause and the Alliance for Justice this week accused U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Diane Sykes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit of violating federal judicial ethics canons.
The two organizations and U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., complained in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts that the scheduled appearance of Thomas and Sykes on Thursday night at a black-tie fundraiser sponsored by the Federalist Society violated the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. They asked Roberts to formally reprimand Thomas.
The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, according to its website, is “a group of conservatives and libertarians” founded on principles that include “reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.” Common Cause describes itself as nonpartisan, while Alliance for Justice says it is “progressive.”
Canon 4C of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges bars federal judges from using the prestige of their judicial office for fundraising purposes and states, “A judge may not be a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program” of a fundraising event.
The Code of Conduct is not binding on U.S. Supreme Court justices. The Alliance for Justice said in a news release that Roberts wrote in a 2011 report that the federal judicial ethics code “plays the same role” for the Supreme Court as it does for the nation’s other federal judges and that “all member of the court do in fact consult the code of conduct in assessing their ethical obligations.”
The fund-raising event took place during the Federalist Society’s 2013 National Lawyers Convention in Washington this week, which focuses this year on “Textualism and the Role of Judges.”
The appearance of Thomas and Sykes was billed as “an Interview with Justice Clarence Thomas by Judge Diane Sykes” and, according to the Federalist Society website, the $200-per-ticket event sold out.
The letter to Roberts stated that Thomas “has allowed the Federalist Society to use his image and role as featured speaker and guest of honor to sell tickets to the dinner. Were he a lower court judge, Justice Thomas’s decision to lend the prestige of his judicial office in this way to raise money for the Federalist Society would violate the Code of Conduct.”
According to CNN, the Court has not commented on the letter.
Panel moderators for the four-day event, for which lawyers could earn continuing legal education credits included 16 circuit court judges, including Judge William Pryor Jr. of the Eleventh Circuit, but they weren’t accused of ethics violations.
At the dinner, CNN reported that Thomas reflected on his lifetime journey that led him to his current post, which he said he “was called to do.” CNN’s Supreme Court producer wrote that Thomas attempted to assure people he was not angry or bitter.
Thomas is the high court’s liaison between the high court and the Eleventh Circuit.
The link to the Alliance for Justice news release, which contains links to the letter to the chief justice and the ethics complaint about Sykes, follows: http://www.afj.org/press-room/press-releases/reformers-senior-lawmaker-charge-justice-thomas-and-federal-appellate-judge-diane-sykes-with-violating-judicial-ethics
The link to the CNN story is: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/15/grateful-justice-thomas-reflects-on-his-personal-professional-journey/