Issues Administrative Stay Temporarily Blocking Grand Jury Testimony
On Monday October 24, 2022 conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, acting alone, stayed an order by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, temporarily blocking the testimony of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, sought by a grand jury in Georgia investigating efforts by Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Thomas is married to Ginni Thomas, who is widely regarded as an ‘election-denier’ and ‘Stop the Steal’ advocate. He is one of nine justices and is responsible for emergency appeals from the 11th Circuit which jurisdiction includes, among other states, Georgia. Thomas’ wife Ginni attended Trump’s rally on January 6, 2021 and is known to have exchanged text messages with Mark Meadows, then Trump Chief of Staff, in the weeks following the 2020 election.
A judge shall … avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear election-disputing cases the month after Joe Biden was sworn into office. Clarence Thomas penned his dissent to this decision. In light of his wife’s pro-Trump activism, one has to wonder why Clarence Thomas doesn’t recuse himself from cases involving Trump’s seemingly never-ending attempts to hold on to the presidency?
Consider, for a moment, these four elements of the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct:
A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently.
A judge shall conduct the judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office.
A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.
These Canons are not binding on Supreme Court justices, which seems odd given the SCOTUS’ high public visibility. However, a relevant federal statute does apply to the nine justices. It reads:
§ 455. Disqualification of justice, judge, or magistrate judge
(a) Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
28 USC § 455(a)
Thomas has been urged to recuse himself from cases involving Trump, yet he continues to flex his influence as part of the SCOTUS. Twitter users unleashed a firestorm of tweets following Thomas’ administrative stay, which temporarily shields Trump ally Lindsey Graham from testifying about his alleged attempt to pressure Georgia election officials. Twitter users characterized Thomas’ ruling as a “stunning act of corruption” and his wife as a “Jan[uary] 6th organizer” while others generally lamented the tarnishing of the Court’s reputation and asked why this justice is not facing impeachment.
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