Saturday, March 26, 2022

Guilt By Marriage

 ("Justice Thomas Ruled on Election Cases. Should His Wife's Texts Have Stopped Him?")

It is not as though we didn't see this Ginni Thomas train coming down the tracks.

Over three years ago, Linda Greenhouse, then an opinion writer for the Times with a regular column on matters Supreme, wrote an Op-Ed entitled "Family Ties to the Supreme Court." It focused on the question of whether "Ginni being Ginni" was enough for her husband, Clarence, to recuse himself from cases in which his spouse had put her proverbial foot in his mouth.

And there were a litany of matters, a cornucopia of circumstances, ripe for the picking. For those who may not recall, Ms. Thomas had a few choice words opposing gun control even in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. She was part of a group, Groundswell, who met at the White House to push their position that women and transgender people should not be permitted to serve in the military. She performed work for the right wing "think tank", the Heritage Foundation, attempting to provide "guidance" to the Bush administration on how best to fill their ranks.

So the effort of the Supreme Court justice's wife to prod Mr. Trump and his minions to do what they must to stop Joe Biden from taking the crown is not aberration or outlier but a continuation of a decades long activism of Ginni Thomas in pursuit of an agenda that many Americans like me find very disturbing and alarming. In essence, she was, and continues to be, a significant voice for the "far right", or as I would rather call them, the "never right".

But what does that mean when it comes to matters that may come before the court?  Do family ties bind? Ms.Greenhouse referred to the decision of Justice Antonin Scalia not to recuse himself in a matter involving his old time duck hunting buddy, Vice President Cheney. Justice Scalia wrote that "The people must have confidence in the integrity of the justices and that cannot exist in a system that assumes them to be corruptible by the slightest friendship or favor." 

Is that the standard that should apply? That recusal, a self determination by a justice, subject to no review, is to be guided not by the appearance of conflict, or impropriety, but by the assumption that someone like Ginni Thomas, an outspoken advocate for her causes and beliefs, holds no sway with her husband? 

I know the shoe could well have been on the other foot, if for example the career path of a Bill Clinton (or a Hillary Clinton), or a Barack Obama (or Michelle Obama) had led to a seat on the Supreme Court while their spouse was raising a  continuous loud voice in the public arena on critical causes of the day. Am I to believe that those who share my opinions are not as equally likely to find themselves in situations such as the ones now under review? I cannot pretend this is so.

It is virtually impossible that Ginni and Clarence did not through the decades have substantive discussions on the matters that mattered to her, and him. And that she did not attempt to press her positions and convince him of the harm that would be done to the country if her beliefs did not prevail. Much more than pillow talk about the kids and the weather.

Do the sins of Ginni Thomas thus, by way of automatic default, fall upon Clarence? Is guilt by marriage always the answer?

Despite my gut instincts, this is not a uniformly easy call to make. While I am deeply concerned at having to trust in the integrity of someone like Justice Thomas to make his determinations free of the sound of his wife's voice in his ear, still...

However, if the predicate for the determination is the degree and nature of the involvement, the fingerprints of Ginny Thomas were all over the January 6th insurrection. Her texts not mere peripheral noise, but central in the cacophony urging the President forward. Under the facts as we now understand them, if she was not part of the inner sanctum, she was not far removed. So let me not be hesitant to render my verdict on this particular matter. 

The scales are heavily tipped by the conclusion that Ginny plunked herself down in the eye of the hurricane. The questions that require investigation and determination inextricably interwoven with the protestations and exhortations of the wife of one Supreme Court Justice. One cannot credibly pretend this is just business as usual for her husband. Therefore, Clarence Thomas should hereby be relieved of any further rights or responsibilities to judge the propriety of any action that relates in any manner to that terrible day in January.


Anonymous said...

This is really excellent! and well-reasoned. Hope to see it in the NY Times!.

Anonymous said...

One doe not control their wives, but one must be sensitive to the optics if one is one the Supreme Court. What was Thomas,s vote on Citizens united, ? (really should be called , citizens devided ) time to analyze his other votes.. and it’s more than individual voting, what were his thoughts going into private meetings at the Court? Did he advocate positions that reflected the far right agenda of his wife?
Scary times,

Anonymous said...

I shudder to think that the many sins of my former, dead husband would attach to me. That said, any lawyer, judge, or Justice MUST RECUSE to avoid the tiniest inkling of improperly. But, sadly, we have those who believe they are to be trusted with their thoughts and beliefs: Scalia and Thomas, I’m looking at you.