Ginni and Clarence Thomas: conflicts of interest


re​cuse | \ ri-ˈkyüz \ transitive verb
to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; broadly: to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest.  –Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Last December, former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows turned over 2,320 email messages to the House Jan. 6 Committee. Among them were 21 from Virginia (“Ginni”) Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, urging Meadows to relentlessly act to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Eight were responses from Meadows to her. CBS News, the Washington Post, and other news outlets have reported on them.

The critical question is whether Justice Thomas has become so tainted by his wife’s ongoing political activism that he should recuse himself from cases involving the election and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. So far, he has not done so. Earlier this year, he cast the lone dissent in a case ruling that the Trump administration had to submit documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 invasion.

Days after the Biden victory, Ginni Thomas wrote, “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!! … You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.” 

She also repeated a long-discredited QAnon conspiracy theory that the Trump campaign had “watermarked ballots” in 12 states to see how the Democrats had committed election fraud. She wrote, “Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states.” There were no such ballots. The shadowy movement QAnon alleges Satan-worshiping people lead the country, and are child traffickers.

Worse still, Ginni Thomas repeated another conspiracy theory that the “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.” The U.S. has held alleged terrorists in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba since 2004.

In an interview with the conservative-leaning Washington Free Beacon in mid-March, she claimed that “like so many married couples, we share many of the same ideals, principles, and aspirations for America. But we have our own separate careers, and our own ideas and opinions too. Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me, and I don’t involve him in my work.”

Yet in her emails to Meadows, she wrote about “a conversation” she had “with my best friend just now” about these matters. While she did not identify who this “best friend” was, she and the justice have often referred to each other this way.

Ginni Thomas attended the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally in front of the White House, where President Trump rallied the throng to try to keep him in office. She says she left because she was cold, not because she believed that the rally could turn deadly violent, as it did, or because she believed in the constitutional principle of the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next. She later condemned the violence.

In 1967, Justice Tom Clark resigned from the Supreme Court when President Lyndon Johnson named his son, Ramsay Clark, attorney general of the U.S. Justice Clark specifically wanted to avoid a conflict of interest, real or apparent, should the Justice Department inevitably be involved in a case before the court. He could have recused himself from these cases, but decided appearances mattered. It was a magnanimous moment in the history of the court.

In contrast, in 2004, Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, declined to remove himself from a case involving the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, after the two of them went on a three-day duck-hunting trip together. Scalia feistily argued he could be objective. His vote later supported Cheney’s position.

Justices are not subject to the federal ethics rules that affect other U.S. courts. They make individual decisions concerning recusal on a case-by-case basis, something that may not always be within the realm of moral judgment. But they must follow a federal law when a conflict involves their wives: USC 28, section 455, requires them to recuse themselves when their “impartiality may reasonably be questioned.”

The New Yorker magazine and the New York Times report that several legal ethicists have long warily watched how closely Ginni Thomas works with highly conservative organizations. They have asked whether any of them may involve influencing her husband when he participates in Supreme Court decisions. Many of them have concluded that it has not mattered.

Until now.

Stephen Gillers, for example, at NYU Law School, noted that he once tolerated “a great deal of Ginni’s political activism,” but she has now crossed a line: “Clarence Thomas cannot sit on any matter involving the election, the invasion of the Capitol, or the work of the Jan. 6 Committee.” Other law professors — Stephen Vladek of the University of Texas, Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, and Bruce Green of Fordham — all agree with Gillers.

The revelations support their inevitable conclusion.


Jack Fruchtman, who lives in Aquinnah, taught constitutional law and politics for more than 40 years. The second edition of his “American Constitutional History” was published on March 18.


  1. Absent new damning evidence, these messages show constitutionally protected advocacy. ”We are long past the day when a wife’s opinions are assumed to be the same as her husband’s.” So argued Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, in 2013. If the professor’s name sounds familiar, as Fruchtman mentions, it’s because he’s been cited by every major media outlet since news broke last week that Virginia Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, sent text messages to Mark Meadows urging him to fight the 2020 election results. There has been no evidence made public that Mrs. Thomas called for violence or had anything to do with the ransacking of the Capitol by Trump supporters.

    • Andy–
      Nice to see that you are breaking ranks with the republican party and acknowledging that the capital was ransacked by trump supporters, and not antifa trouble makers co ordinated by the FBI.

    • The problem is opinions by Justice Clarence, and only by Justice Clarence, support activities by members of Ginni’s alt-right garden club. Even if it turns out to be coincidence, the appearance is Justice Clarence is compromised.

  2. Not breaking ranks at all Keller. I was paraphrasing conventional liberal media.
    Of course, it is absolutely critical to the Democratic Party narrative that the January 6 incident be made to seem as violent and crazed as possible. Hence the comparisons to 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and the Civil War. Only thus can pro-Trump Americans be excluded from “our democracy” by being branded as “domestic extremists” if not, indeed, “domestic terrorists.”

    • Agreed. “Domestic extremists/terrorists “ is a poor characterization.
      “Racist misogynists” would be a better approximation.

      • “Traitors” simplifies who these thugs are, including Ginny.

        Anyone promoting the overthrow of a proven (many times over) free and fair election is a traitor to this great country.

      • The GOP platform was already racist misogyny, they now want to force it on everyone around them. They don’t understand the cost, both social and economic.

        • I’m afraid they DO understand the costs, but have calculated the benefits to exceed…. Pandering to the ultra-conservative base can win an election.
          Why the ***** are we not pushing for term-limits.

  3. Andy– I was just stating how happy I was that you seem to know who actually ransacked the capital on Jan 6. The next time you see your good friend Tucker, could you tell him it wasn’t the FBI and antifa please ?
    Give me a break about what the democrats compare it to.
    It would be a miracle if you denounced the GOP extremist politicians that compared wearing a mask during a pandemic to the yellow stars required of Jews in Europe in the late 1930’s and early 40’s .
    Even more betterer if you actually criticized some of the extremist on the right side of the isle of congress for comparing the voluntary vaccination against COVID to “concentration camps” and the genocidal tragedy that happened during the Holocaust.
    No one is excluded from our democracy, Andy– not even gay trans people of color.
    Even that right wing extremist who holds a seat in congress that thinks the Parkland high school massacre was a “false flag” and thinks George Soros has lasers in space that he deliberately starts fires in California with is included.
    Unbelievably enough not only is she is included, she is an elected official.
    Show us some example of trump supporters being excluded form our democracy Andy.
    America is a country dedicated to inclusiveness.
    And you know it. Even if you don’t like it.

    • Andy — thanks for the affirmation. It’s always nice to know when I get it absolutely correct.

    • Andy,

      I always appreciate your posts as much as I chuckle at Keller’s.

      I think we can all agree that what happened on 1/6 was a bad look for the USA along with the non violent protests of the summer of love.

      It should be noted however that not one person was charged with the actual crime of insurrection from the lawlessness on 1/6. It is also fact that our law enforcement uses undercover techniques that make them complicit in the crimes they will eventually make arrests and it is perfectly legal.

      But we have a biased media with an agenda who would rather bury a story or exaggerate one to get a certain result. We also have feckless politicians who blame the previous guy instead fixing the problem at hand. I love this country and only want he best for it but I’m concerned that the powers that be will do anything and everything to keep us divided. That’s how they keep their power.

  4. There is something seriously wrong with your moral compass if you don’t know Clarence Thomas is a liar. From way back. Nothing new under his sun as he promoted Trump’s Big Lie. And Ginni is a Q ninny. They deserve each other, but our country deserves better.

    From 4 years ago and 1 year ago:

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