Friday, December 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT we have an ineresting piece on gifts given to Justice Thomas and some of the other Supremes: Justice Thomas Reports Wealth of Gifts.

My first reaction was that the scrutiny of Thomas is beginning, given that he had been rumored to be Bush’s first choice to replace Rehnquist as CJ.

My second was that there is certainly something unseemly about the numbers in question vis-a-vis Thomas.

My third is that I am not sure where to draw the line, however, and that is doesn’t seem that there is an any evidence of these gifts being any time of serious potential influence over Thomas’ decision-making on the Court.

My fourth is that there is something to be admired, however, that several of the Justices have received little of no gifts of this type–although it bespeaks of Mr. Souter’s seemingly hermit-like exisitence that he seems to take no trips, give no speeches, etc.

In looking at the gifts, it strikes me that some of this is much ado about nothing. For example:

* $19,000 Bible from Republican donor

* $15,000 for a Lincoln bust from the American Enterprise Institute

Unless Thomas turns around and sells that stuff, I am not sure that the dollar figures matter all that much. The Bible, which is a lavish and nifty gift, is a symbolic one and doesn’t actually enhance Mr. Thomas’ wealth (again, unless he sells it). If one has a very wealthy friend, one might get that kind of gift. Of course, given that the wealty friend in question has direct links to the funding of the Swift Boat folks, the political synergy is quite significant.

Further, the statue from AEI is also not something that actually enhances his wealth, per se, and is more or less an award/a token of recognition (if one can call something worth $15k a “token”).

The “$5,000 cash gift from a mobile [that should be "motor"-Ed.] home enthusiast” which was apparently used to “help pay a relative’s education expenses” does strike one at first as being possibily problematic. The story describes it as follows:

Another businessman who calls Thomas a friend is Earl Dixon. A pest control company executive in Jacksonville, Fla., and former Republican state legislator, Dixon is also a motor-home enthusiast — a hobby shared by Thomas. He said they met about four years ago at a motor-coach repair shop in Florida.

Their friendship grew, Dixon said, and when he learned that Thomas was raising a grand-nephew, he gave the justice a $5,000 check to defray his education costs.

“I enjoy talking with him. I enjoy visiting with him. He’s a class act,” Dixon said of the justice.

So, in many ways, it was gift to the young man in question.

Some of the gifts are simply the kinds of thing one gets for being a celeb and engaging in certain public events: “an $800 Daytona 500 commemorative jacket after Thomas served as grand marshal at the race in 1999″ and “$1,375 in cowboy boots, Stetson hats, rawhide coat and a silver buckle after engagements in Texas in 1995 and 1996″ (and I guess none of it was used much, if at all).

The bottom line is that it is clear that Mr. Thomas has made friends and received gitfts because of his position, which does create an unseemly air of profiting from his office. While individual gifts can be explained it is also the case that perhaps Mr. Thomas should tone it down a bit.

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7 Responses to “Gifts to the Supremes (Especially Thomas)”

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    1. bryan Says:

      I actually met Justice Thomas last May, and a group of us got to tour his office in the court. He is indeed a huge motor home enthusiast, and is raising his grand nephew. He’s a very gregarious individual, and has a fascinating personal story to tell.

      I would have to say that the gifting thing really only becomes an issue if he has to rule on something one of these donors brings before the court. In such a case, he should recuse himself.

    2. Legal XXX Says:

      The First Shot Against Clarence Thomas as Chief
      Might this be the first salvo in an attempt by the MSM to try to push Thomas out of the running for Chief Justice? Baseless insinuations of graft wouldn’t be the worst the LAT has done.

    3. Christopher Cross Says:

      Also, the bible was one that was purported to belong to Frederick Douglass, which puts a less “Crazy Bible Thumper” spin on it.

      My theory is this is the first attempt by the MSM to discredit Thomas as a viable option for Chief Justice…

    4. Kappiy Says:

      Clarence Thomas is acting very Clinton-esque, taking valuable gifts from people.

      One would think with Scalia’s shameful actions over the past couple of years that someone like Thomas might be a little more interested in maintaining some credibility.

      If these people want to take gifts, they should become property of the Court–or the Smithsonian. They can keep the stuff lying around in their offices until they retire and then it can go on display later.

      Souter obviously should be commended for displaying his usual independence and integrity.

    5. Rodney Dill Says:

      There’s something ironic about a bible that costs $19,000 in that the most valuable thing you can get out of the bible is free.

    6. Christopher Cross Says:

      Or Souter’s usual weirdness…

    7. Teri Says:

      Included in the gifts highlighted are things that Thomas received in 1999, 1996 and 1995. If he’d gotten all this stuff in the last six months, I’d say there was something worth investigating. But listing everything he’s received over the entire time he’s been on the Supreme Court is as silly as those articles that breathlessly tell you that “you’ll earn a million dollars over your lifetime!” Uh-huh. That’s 25,000 a year for a 40-year work history, hardly Fantasy Island.

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