BY JOHN FUND – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has decided he’s had enough of liberal adversaries claiming he should recuse himself from future decisions because of his wife’s involvement in the tea party.
On Saturday night, he used his speech to a Federalist Society conference at the University of Virginia to say that his critics “seem bent on undermining” the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as an institution. He said such fiercely ideological attacks could erode the ability of Americans to protect their freedoms.
“You all are going to be, unfortunately, the recipients of the fallout from that — that there’s going to be a day when you need these institutions to be credible and to be fully functioning to protect your liberties,” he said, according to a recording of the speech provided to Politico.com. “That could be either a short or a long time, but you’re younger, and it’s still going to be a necessity to protect the liberties that you enjoy now in this country.”
Justice Thomas’s critics claim that his attendance at a 2008 meeting of conservative donors in California should have required him to recuse himself from the court’s 5-4 decision last year in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which held that limits on independent campaign expenditures by corporations or unions violate the First Amendment.
In addition, 74 House Democrats have signed a letter asking Justice Thomas to recuse himself from hearing any cases on the constitutionality of ObamaCare. They claim that his failure to list income that his wife, Ginny, received from employment at the Heritage Foundation, an opponent of ObamaCare, blurs “the line between your impartiality and you and your wife’s financial stake in the overturn of health care reform.” What they failed to mention is that Ginny Thomas ended her work at the Heritage Foundation in early 2009, before ObamaCare was a major issue on Capitol Hill. She then went to work for Tea Party Patriots until ending her work there early this year.
Even liberal law professors have expressed skepticism at such efforts to undermine the integrity of Justice Thomas. Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California Irvine who sharply criticized the Citizen United decision, says a letter from the liberal group Common Cause asking the Justice Department to examine Justice Thomas’s actions represent “an unwarranted attack on the ethics of the Justices.”
It’s impossible to figure out all of the motivations behind the attacks on Justice Thomas, but it’s a safe bet that several liberal groups have decided that the constitutionality of ObamaCare is under serious assault. They want to lay down some markers for declaring that any adverse decision by the Supreme Court is morally — and legally — illegitimate.