Legal Ethics

Ginni Thomas Is Right’s New Rising Star, Raising Recusal Issues for Her Husband

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Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, are the right’s new “power couple.”

That’s the assessment of Newsweek, one of a couple publications noting that Virginia “Ginni” Thomas has taken on an outspoken role since she founded the website Liberty Central, spurring questions about the propriety of her activism.

“It’s like a Hollywood movie,” Newsweek says. “One spouse goes off to work at the Supreme Court, that most august of institutions, where formality and discretion reign. The other puts on her power suit—and occasionally, a foam Lady Liberty crown—and enters the raucous, chaotic world of Tea Party politics and Fox News pontificating.”

The New York Times story says Liberty Central was founded in 2009 with two large donations, one for $500,000 and the other for $50,000, but the group has not disclosed the source. Virginia Thomas is paid out of the group’s donations. Liberty Central’s chief operating officer, Sarah Field, told the Times that internal reviews and protections prevent conflicts of interest for Ginni Thomas and her husband.

Northwestern law professor Steven Lubet told the Times that solicitation of large donations by Ginni Thomas could raise recusal issues for her husband. “There’s no reason to think that Justice Thomas would be anything other than extremely careful about it,” he added.

“I think this is the world we live in, where two-career families are the norm and there are no constraints on the political activities of judicial spouses,” he said.

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