Ellison: Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from health care cases


Rep. Keith Ellison is among 74 members of Congress who called  on United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Friday to recuse himself from hearing any cases that have to do with health care reform after revelations that Thomas’ wife makes a living from organizations that oppose the implementation of health care reform.

Virginia Thomas received nearly $700,000 from the Heritage Foundation between 2003 and 2007 – and that income was not disclosed on Justice Thomas’ financial disclosure forms as required by law. The Heritage Foundation opposes health care reform, and the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court. In addition, Virginia Thomas recently started a lobbying firm and will serve as an “ambassador to the Tea Party movement.”

In their letter, the House members, all Democrats, also noted that Virginia Thomas and her Liberty Central stood to benefit from the Citizens United decision in 2010 in which Justice Thomas sided with corporations making independent political expenditures.

The House members are asking Justice Thomas to recuse himself if the high court hears a case questioning the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Justice Thomas:

As an Associate Justice, you are entrusted with the responsibility to exercise the highest degree of discretion and impartiality when deciding a case. As Members of Congress, we were surprised by recent revelations of your financial ties to leading organizations dedicated to lobbying against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We write today to respectfully ask that you maintain the integrity of this court and recuse yourself from any deliberations on the constitutionality of this act.

The appearance of a conflict of interest merits recusal under federal law. From what we have already seen, the line between your impartiality and you and your wife’s financial stake in the overturn of health care reform is blurred. Your spouse is advertising herself as a lobbyist who has “experience and connections” and appeals to clients who want a particular decision – they want to overturn health care reform. Moreover, your failure to disclose Ginny Thomas’s receipt of $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, a prominent opponent of health care reform, between 2003 and 2007 has raised great concern.

This is not the first case where your impartiality was in question. As Common Cause points out, you “participated in secretive political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the [5-4] decision” on the Citizens United case. Your spouse also received an undisclosed salary paid for by undisclosed donors as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that stood to benefit from the decision and played an active role in the 2010 elections.

Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household’s financial gain through your spouse’s activities and your role as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the US Supreme Court’s decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path.

We appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this request.


Reps. Anna G. Eshoo, Anthony D. Weiner, Al Green, E.B. Johnson, Wm. Lacy Clay, Russ Carnahan, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Karen Bass, Richard Neal, Peter Welch, Judy Chu, John Yarmuth, Betty Sutton, Ed Perlmutter, Gerald Connolly, Dennis Kucinich, Kendrick Meeks, Allyson Schwartz, Lloyd Doggett, Gwen Moore, Jared Polis, Maxine Waters, Donald Payne, Bobby Rush, Steve Cohen, Joseph Crowley, Eliot Engel, David Cicilline, Susan Davis, Albio Sires, Mike Doyle, Louise Slaughter, Jim McDermott, Nydia Velazquez, John Garamendi, André Carson, Michael Capuano, Shelley Berkley, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Tim Bishop, Barbara Lee, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, John Conyers, John Larson, George Miller, Leonard Boswell, Donna Edwards, Lois Capps, Xavier Becerra, Theodore Deutch, Steve Israel, Bill Owens, Laura Richardson, Clarke, Mazie Hirono, Gary Ackerman, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Chris Murphy, Lynn Woolsey, Peter DeFazio, Jesse Jackson Jr, Sylvester Reyes, Carolyn Maloney, Robert Andrews, Bill Pascrell, Bob Filner, Paul Tonko, Marcia Fudge, Maurice Hinchey, Mike Honda, Frank Pallone, Pete Stark