Today Rep. Athony Wiener (D-NY) sent a letter to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking that he recuse himself from hearing challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to Wiener and the letter’s 73 cosigners, the fact that Thomas’ lobbyist wife, Virginia (Gini), has worked in a professional capacity to defeat the legislation constitutes a conflict of interest. Wiener also noted Gini Thomas’ involvement with clients that had benefited from the Court’s Citizen United ruling.
Among the cosigners were Missouri’s Lacy Clay (D-1) and Russ Carnahan (D-3). Notably absent were signatures from any of the Republican members of the Missouri delegation. While their abstinence may be understandable from a political point of view, it is certainly questionable given that, as Think Progress‘ Ian Milhiser notes apropos the federal recusal statute:
… conservatives have already interpreted this ethics law in a way that requires Justice Thomas to recuse himself from the health care litigation. After progressive Judge Stephen Reinhardt was assigned to the appellate panel that was to hear a challenge to anti-gay Proposition 8, supporters of the anti-gay law called for Reinhardt to recuse because his wife’s organization advocates against Prop 8.
Certainly, in light of Gini Thomas’ activities – and the added fillip that her husband has for many years failed to report her income as he is required to do – it would seem that there is more substance to Weiner’s claims than in the efforts of conservative Orin Hatch to trump up objections to Elena Kagan prior to the court’s inevitable review of the ACA. Hatch recently questioned Kagan’s impartiality to hear cases related to the ACA on the basis that she served as Obama’s Solicitor General while it was taking shape, although Kagan had previously stated that “she had not been involved in legal strategy sessions about how to defend the health-care plan against charges that it is unconstitutional.”
It will be interesting to see how the Missouri GOPers react as this little conflict of interest contest rolls out. Meanwhile, kudos to Clay and Carnahan. Somebody needs to call Thomas out about what seems to be a pattern of abuse related to his judical activism.