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Durbin Leads Judiciary Committee Democrats in Letters to Harlan Crow Seeking Full Information on Gifts & Travel Given to Justice Thomas

Judiciary Committee Dems send letters to Mr. Crow and the holding companies that own his private jet, private yacht, and Topridge Camp

WASHINGTON – As revelations continue about Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow’s undisclosed gifts to Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led all Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats in sending letters to Mr. Crow and the holding companies that own his private jet, private yacht, and Topridge Camp seeking to identify the full extent of Mr. Crow’s and the corporations’ gifts to Justice Thomas, what other individuals were able to gain special access to Justice Thomas and any other Justices via the travel and lodging provided, and whether those individuals had interests before the Supreme Court. 

“Recent investigative reporting has identified multiple instances in which you or entities you own or control have made payments, purchased real estate, or provided gifts, travel, or other items of value to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and members of his family.  Many of these gifts, transactions, and items of value had not been previously disclosed by Justice Thomas, in apparent contravention of the Supreme Court’s April 25, 2023 ‘Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices’ which claimed that Justices since 1991 ‘have followed’ the financial disclosure requirements provided in the Judicial Conference Regulations, and other applicable obligations,” wrote the Senators in their letter to Mr. Crow.  “You have issued several public statements acknowledging these items of value that you have given to Justice Thomas and his family members.”

The Senators’ letter continues, “As part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ongoing efforts to craft legislation strengthening the ethical rules and standards that apply to the Justices of the Supreme Court, we request that you provide the Committee with certain information by May 22, 2023.  This information will help identify specific shortcomings in the ‘Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices,’ as well as current law, that legislation needs to address.”

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing entitled, “Supreme Court Ethics Reform.”  The hearing emphasized the clear need for reform and examined common sense proposals to hold Justices to – at minimum – the same ethical standards as every other federal judge or high-ranking official in the federal government.  Durbin’s opening statement from the hearing is available here and his questions for the witnesses are available here.

Durbin invited Chief Justice John Roberts, or another Justice whom the Chief Justice designated, to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee at last week’s hearing.  The Chief Justice declined to appear.  In his letter declining Durbin’s invitation, the Chief Justice attached a “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices” that raised more questions than it answered.

On April 10, Durbin and his Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic colleagues sent a letter to the Chief Justice urging him to take swift action to address reported conduct by Justices that is inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of public servants.  Durbin received a response letter from the Secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States and it stated that the Senators’ April 10 letter was referred to the Judicial Conference and forwarded to the Judicial Conference Committee on Financial Disclosure.

Durbin has been calling on the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of conduct for more than a decade.  He first sent a letter to the Chief Justice on this issue 11 years ago.

Full text of the letter to Mr. Crow is available here.

Full text of the letter to the entity that owns Topridge Camp is available here.

Full text of the letter to the entity that owns the Michaela Rose yacht is available here.

Full text of the letter to the entity that owns Mr. Crow’s private plane is available here.