And yet, the public’s demand for fundamental fairness and judicial neutrality is not only appropriate but essential to the integrity of the court, as judges of all ages know well. Partly in response to court ruling tank public approval ratings, several of which have increased more and more franc to defend their independence. (Corn do not all.)
The most obvious way for judges to demonstrate this independence in practice, of course, is to recuse themselves from any case in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. It does not matter that there is, in fact, a conflict of interest; the mere appearance of bias or conflict should be enough to force Judge Thomas or any other member of the court to step down.
Many of them have done so over the years, out of respect for the court as an institution and for the public’s confidence in their probity. Just this week, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson vowed during her confirmation hearings that she would recuse herself from an upcoming case challenging Harvard’s affirmative action policies, due to her multiple personal and professional ties to the university. . Legal Ethics Experts were not even agreeing that his recusal was necessary, but Judge Jackson was right to err on the side of caution.
Judge Thomas paid lip service to this ideal. “I think the media gives the impression that you always go straight to your personal preferences,” he said. said in a speech Last year. “This is a problem. You are going to jeopardize any trust in the judicial institutions.
Bench Note to Justice: You know what jeopardizes public trust in justice institutions? Refuse to recuse many high profile cases in which your wife has been personally and at times financially entangled, as The New Yorker reported in January. Especially when you pointed out that you and she are merged “into one being”. Or when you have, as The Times Magazine reported last month, appeared with her for years “at highly political events organized by lawyers in hopes of swaying the court.”
Ms Thomas’ antics and her husband’s refusal to respond appropriately have haunted the court for years, but this latest conflagration is unlikely to be a close call. “Texts are the narrowest way to look at this,” Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor and one of the nation’s leading legal ethics experts, told me. “She signed up for Stop the Steal. She was part of the team, and that team was interested in how the court would decide. That’s all I need to know. He said he had resisted over the years seeking the recusal of Judge Thomas because of his wife’s actions, “but they really abused that tolerance.”
Yes, married people can lead an independent professional life, and it is not the responsibility of a judge to monitor the actions of his spouse. But the brazenness with which the Thomases flouted the most reasonable expectations of judicial correctness is unprecedented. From the Affordable Care Act to the Trump administration’s Muslim ban to the 2020 election challenges, Ms. Thomas has repeatedly embroiled herself in significant legal issues and litigants who have found themselves in front of her husband’s court. All the while, he has closed his eyes, refusing to recuse himself from any of these instances. For someone whose job it is to judge, Judge Thomas has, in this context at least, displayed appallingly poor judgment.