Op-Ed: Justice Thomas’ refusal to recuse himself is thumbing his nose at the law
We have seen a number of Supreme Court justices step down since the last presidential election. President Trump fired a federal appeals court judge, Merrick Garland, after a protracted fight. Another Justice, Neil Gorsuch, stepped aside and left the bench after President Trump appointed him to a Supreme Court vacancy.
All these resignations came after the presidents involved made it clear they were going to appoint someone else to succeed them on the Court. We have seen some surprising instances of nonrecusal in the past.
Justice Thomas was only the 20th Justice to resign since the president’s inauguration and was only the third to not do so on the day after the election. He announced on April 12, just after Trump’s inauguration, that he was stepping down.
This is not the first time Justice Thomas has not recused himself. In 2006, he refused to recuse himself after his wife was questioned by federal prosecutors about how they had allegedly hidden the couple’s money and influence within the University of Texas. The decision to not recuse himself was based on an erroneous belief that the wife, Jane Roberts, was not an impartial judge.
Thomas’ decision to step down on his own is further indication of how much he believes in the principle of the Constitution’s separation of powers and the rule of law. It is also another example of how a Supreme Court justice may decide to “pull the curtain” even if he has to go under an umbrella, to pull down the curtain further.
I would think there would be enough votes on the court to make a decision even if the four justices who voted to leave the seat vacant would not agree to act as judges in the event that a vacancy occurred during the term.
I think you’re very astute. I’d be interested to hear your take on the following:
1. Justice Thomas’ decision to step down was based on his belief that he did not need to recuse himself due to a belief that the wife of his ex-cousin had an “erroneous” belief