"No Willful Ethics Transgression": Clarence Thomas Releases Independent Legal Audit In New Financial Disclosure

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Aug 31, 2023 - 04:00 PM

An independent auditor has concluded that Justice Clarence Thomas had "no willful ethics transgression," after left-wing activist group ProPublica and others alleged he violated ethics rules by accepting gifts from wealthy friends.

"After reviewing Justice Thomas’s records, I am confident there has been no willful ethics transgression, and any prior reporting errors were strictly inadvertent," wrote attorney Elliot Berke.

Thomas, who applied for and was granted an extension on his 2022 financial disclosure, requested that Berke Farah LLP and accounting firm Flynn Abell Nixon LLC conduct an independent investigation to assist with his financial disclosure after the Judicial Conference of the United States issued new rules in March governing transparency, the Daily Caller reports.

In his filing, released on Thursday, Thomas disclosed three trips he accepted from billionaire Harlan Crow last year, but has denied any wrongdoing in accepting the trips - one of which was to the Adirondacks in New York, and two of which were to Dallas. For one of the trips, Thomas said he flew on a private jet due to security concerns due to the leak of the draft opinion on abortion.

Crow also bought three properties in Savannah, GA from Thomas and his family in 2014, which were first publicized by ProPublica.

Thomas has previously said he was advised that the trips fell under a personal hospitality exception and didn't need to be reported.

Thursday's disclosure indicates that the two Dallas trips were for Thomas to give keynote speeches at conferences held by the American Enterprise Institute.

In February 2022, he says he was reimbursed to fly private back from Dallas because of an "unexpected ice storm," and that security concerns prompted the private flight to the second conference in May of last year.

"Because of the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak, the May flights were by private plane for official travel as filer’s security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible," reads the new disclosure.

The extraordinary leak of the draft opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade rattled the court. Fences were installed around the Supreme Court building, and one man was arrested for attempting to murder fellow conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

Thomas’s newly disclosed New York trip appears to be to Crow’s private lakeside resort, a location ProPublica reported Thomas has traveled to on multiple past occasions. Thomas listed Keese Mill, N.Y., as the location of the trip, which is the town where the resort is located.

Flights to and from Adirondacks by private plane and lodging, food, and entertainment at the Adirondacks property, were reportable under and in compliance with the new guidance,” Thomas’s disclosure states. -The Hill

On Thursday, Berke wrote: "Justice Thomas’s critics allege that he failed to report gifts from wealthy friends. Untrue," adding "He has never accepted a gift from anyone with business before the Court. For anyone who knows him at all, it is clear that no one influences Justice Clarence Thomas’s jurisprudence. But friends are dear, close, and separate."

"No Justice, Justice Thomas included, should be subjected to such political blood sport," Berke continued. "It is painfully obvious that these attacks are motivated by hatred for his judicial philosophy, not by any real belief in any ethical lapses. Several other Justices have been accused of ethics infractions of late as well, and while I do not represent them, I have seen no evidence to suggest their conduct was anything other than consistent with the rules in effect at the time the reports were filed, or due to inadvertent mistakes – as is the case with Justice Thomas."

In March, the federal judiciary's policymaking arm clarified its guidance that trips and stays at commercial properties are reportable on annual financial disclosure forms by justices and federal judges.