Clarence Thomas took three more undeclared trips on his billionaire buddy’s jet

Revelation comes amid controversy over transparency and ethics on the Supreme Court

Ariana Baio
Friday 14 June 2024 15:52 BST
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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not disclose three flights gifted by a GOP megadonor, the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not disclose three flights gifted by a GOP megadonor, the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed (Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not disclose three more private jet trips gifted to him by Republican megadonor and billionaire Harlan Crow, the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed on Thursday.

According to a document obtained by the committee, Justice Thomas failed to disclose a gifted flight to Kalispell, Montana, in 2017, another to Savannah, Georgia, in 2019 and one to Santa Jose, California, in 2021.

It is unclear what the purposes of the trips were.

Supreme Court justices are encouraged, per the code of ethics, to report any free transportation, lodging, meals and other gifts on their annual financial disclosure forms. However, the code is nonbinding, having no enforceable mechanism in place.

The revelation arrives amid a turbulent year for the court, in which the justices are being scrutinized for failing to disclose ties to wealthy and powerful individuals. Justice Thomas, particularly, has been singled out for his reliance on wealthy friends to take luxurious vacations.

Senate Democrats have pushed for legislation that would force justices to be more transparent about their personal and financial ties through a binding code of conduct that would allow for investigations into potential violations and require justices to explain why they must recuse themselves from any cases. It would also require disclosures when a justice has a connection to a political party or amicus.

Senator Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that “Chief Justice Roberts has the authority to implement an enforceable code of conduct” but “refused.”

“Until he acts, I will keep pushing for legislation,” Durbin wrote in a statement.

Justice Thomas previously responded to criticism by claiming gifts and travel did not need to be reported because it was “personal hospitality from close personal friends.”

He did not immediately comment on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s findings.

All three trips, reported by the committee, were extremely brief — sometimes lasting no more than a day.

In May 2017, Justice Thomas took a flight to Kalispell, Montana,  a small town less than 20 miles from Glacier National Park, for just two days.

The other trip to Savannah, Georgia,  his hometown, in March 2019 was a brief day trip. Similarly, the June 2021 flight to San Jose, California, a town in Northern California, was only for a single day.

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