*Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has launched a tea-party-linked group that may threaten the traditional notions of political impartiality for the court, according to a piece in the Los Angeles Times.
“I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Neb., who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you,” she said at a recent panel discussion with tea party leaders in Washington.
Thomas went on to count herself among those energized into action by President Obama’s “hard-left agenda.”
In January, she created Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group whose website will organize activism around a set of conservative “core principles,” she said. The group plans to issue score cards for Congress members and be involved in the November election, although Thomas would not specify how. She said it would accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court.
“I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country,” Thomas, who goes by Ginni, said on the panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great.”
Although Liberty Central is a nonpartisan group, its website shows an affinity for conservative principles. Her biography notes that Thomas is a fan of Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, author of “Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America.”
“She is intrigued by Glenn Beck and listening carefully,” the bio says.
As in her appearance at the panel discussion, the website does not mention Clarence Thomas.
The judicial code of conduct does require judges to separate themselves from their spouses’ political activity. As a result, Marjorie Rendell, a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has stayed away from political events, campaign rallies and debates in Pennsylvania. Her husband discussed such issues in his first campaign for governor.
Since then, Judge Rendell has sought the opinion of the judiciary’s Committee on Codes of Conduct when a case presents a possible conflict of interest involving her husband’s political office, she said.
Law professor Gillers said that Justice Thomas, too, should be on alert for possible conflicts, particularly those involving donors to his wife’s nonprofit.
“There is opportunity for mischief if a company with a case before the court, or which it wants the court to accept, makes a substantial contribution to Liberty Central in the interim,” he said.
Justice Thomas would be required to be aware of such contributions, Gillers said, adding that he believes Thomas should then disclose those facts and allow parties in the case to argue for recusal.
But it would be up to Justice Thomas to decide whether to recuse himself.