The House Judiciary courts subcommittee is set to hold a hearing on Supreme Court ethics on Wednesday, following the revelation of explosive pro-coup texts by Ginni Thomas, the wife of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas.
In a press release, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who chairs the subcommittee, said the panel will consider the impact of the Supreme Court’s “lack of a clearly applicable code of ethics” and “examine other reforms” aimed at promoting transparency and accountability for the highest court.
In a memo reportedly distributed to members of the subcommittee ahead of its hearing on Wednesday, Johnson mentioned Congress’ impeachment authority as a potential way to regulate Supreme Court justices’ conduct.
“Threats or inquiries of impeachment as a means of regulating the conduct of Supreme Court justices have had varying effects,” Johnson said in the memo obtained by The Hill.
The memo reportedly notes Democrats recent demands for the Supreme Court to impose a code of ethics in the wake of Ginni Thomas’ pro-coup texts.
Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), vice chair of the subcommittee, said Justice Thomas’ refusal to recuse himself from Jan. 6-related cases, despite his wife’s involvement in the election steal scheme, “raises serious ethical — and legal — alarm bells.”
“The need for strong, enforceable ethics laws is clearer than ever. We have to do more to hold the Court accountable and restore public trust through a binding code of ethics and recusal,” Jones said in the memo, according to the Hill.
Last month, the Washington Post unearthed Ginni Thomas’ damning texts to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the weeks after the 2020 presidential election. In the string of messages, the wife of Justice Thomas urged Meadows to help then-President Trump steal a second term in office and “release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down.”
Congressional Democrats demanded Justice Thomas recuse himself from Jan. 6-related cases in light of his wife’s pro-coup texts. Some Democrats went further, however, demanding the Justice resign altogether, citing Ginni Thomas’ longtime, well-documented conservative activism. Democrats and legal scholars argue that her actions pose potential conflicts of interest for her husband as he hears cases related to last year’s deadly Capitol insurrection and efforts to subvert the 2020 election results.
Although she declined at the time to directly address some of her colleagues’ calls for Justice Thomas’ resignation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters last month that she doesn’t think Justice Thomas “should’ve ever been appointed.”
Republicans, on the other hand, took pains to avoid engaging with calls for Justice Thomas to recuse himself. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has maintained his defense of Justice Thomas, characterizing calls for his recusal from election cases as part of an “inappropriate pressure campaign” by Democrats.