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Ethics Complaints About Justice Clarence Thomas Referred To Top Judicial Panel

Complaints about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas have been referred to a federal panel that oversees the nation’s financial disclosure laws, a top judicial official said Tuesday.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) last week called on the body overseeing the federal judiciary to refer Thomas for investigation amid a series of bombshell revelations that he failed to report gifts from a billionaire friend for two decades. ProPublica published a series of stories this month that detailed years of luxury vacations Thomas and his wife took with benefactor Harlan Crow, including travel aboard Crow’s yacht and private jet. The publication later reported Crow had purchased Thomas’ ancestral home and other land in 2014, where the justice’s mother continues to live rent-free.

Thomas did not report the transaction on his financial disclosure forms as is required by law.

“There is reasonable cause to believe that Justice Thomas willfully failed to file information required,” the two Democrats wrote with nearly two dozen other colleagues last week.

U.S. District Judge Rosylnn Mauskopf told Whitehouse and Johnson she had referred the matter to the Judicial Conference at their request. The body, which sets the rules for the federal judiciary, in March updated its disclosure rules to include requirements that judges report gifts of lodging and hospitality.

“I have forwarded your letter to the Judicial Conference Committee on Financial Disclosure, which is responsible for implementing the disclosure provisions of the Ethics in Government Act and addressing allegations of errors or omissions in the filing of financial disclosure reports,” Mauskopf wrote to the lawmakers.

It’s unclear how the committee will move forward with the allegations. The Washington Post was the first to report the development.

The body is comprised of more than two dozen of the top judges from the nation’s district and circuit courts and is headed by Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court.

Thomas responded to the report about his travel with Crow last week, saying he had sought guidance about the trips early in his tenure on the Supreme Court. Republicans have moved to brush off criticism of the justice amid the revelations.

“[I] was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the court, was not reportable,” he said at the time.

Thomas has not commented on the real estate transaction, the first evidence of money moving directly from Crow to Thomas’ family.