Legal Ethics

Email reportedly sent by Justice Thomas' wife could raise recusal issues

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Justice Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, reportedly sent an email to a conservative group email list that asked how she could organize activists to support President Donald J. Trump.

The Feb. 13 email and a recent article by Ginni Thomas could raise recusal issues for justice, the Daily Beast reports. The publication obtained a copy of the email but did not reveal the source.

The email sought a way to counter grassroots efforts by a group called Daily Action, which opposes the Trump agenda, including the president’s temporary travel ban. In a recent article for the Daily Caller, Ginni Thomas commented on an interview with Christian Adams, the lawyer-author of Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department. Adams thinks acting Attorney General Sally Yates should have been dismissed even before she refused to defend the travel ban.

Thomas sounded a warning in her Daily Caller article. “Today, a subversive alt-government is emerging, in line with the alt-left’s growing resistance to use any means necessary to slow, stop and obstruct Trump’s agenda, from inside the government, to make America ungovernable,” she wrote.

Thomas sounded a similar theme in her email to the group email list.

“What is the best way to, with minimal costs, set up a daily text capacity for a ground up-grassroots army for pro-Trump daily action items to push back against the left’s resistance efforts who are trying to make America ungovernable?” Thomas wrote. She then referred to Daily Action and its popularity on Facebook.

“But there are some grassroots activists, who seem beyond the Republican party or the conservative movement, who wish to join the fray on social media for Trump and link shields and build momentum,” she wrote. “I met with a house load of them yesterday and we want a daily textable tool to start. … Suggestions?”

The Daily Caller spoke with ethics experts who said the timing of Thomas’ email suggests she was trying to organize support for Trump’s executive orders, including the temporary ban on entry into the United States by refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations.

That kind of conduct by a justice’s spouse could spur “a nonfrivolous disqualification motion” by travel ban challengers, should the issue reach the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Georgetown University Law Center professor Heidi Li Feldman. But that doesn’t mean Justice Thomas would have to recuse himself.

“It’s an important principle: Just because you’re married to somebody, doesn’t mean you share all their views,” said Cornell University emeritus law professor Charles Wolfram.

The Daily Beast article notes that Justice Thomas previously declined to recuse himself in a Supreme Court case on the Affordable Care Act, which his wife had “vocally opposed.”

The Daily Caller sought comment from Ginni and Justice Thomas. Neither responded.

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