Friday, December 31, 2004

Graft by any other name

Judge Clarence Thomas apparently has loads of "friends" who are just aching to give him all kinds of shit.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts since joining the high court, including $1,200 worth of tires, valuable historical items and a $5,000 personal check to help pay a relative's education expenses.

The gifts also included a Bible once owned by the 19th century author and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, which Thomas valued at $19,000, and a bust of President Lincoln valued at $15,000.

He also took a free trip aboard a private jet to the exclusive Bohemian Grove club in Northern California — arranged by a wealthy Texas real estate investor who helped run an advocacy group that filed briefs with the Supreme Court.
Is it legal? Well, of course: this is America and there are LOADS of loopholes in the graft laws. As long as none of these people actually appear before him for a case, no problem. But what if somebody KNOWS somebody who appears before him? That's NO problem.

The other judges have only accepted gifts that were quite small and tokens from ANYONE. The gifts that have received are FAR less. Breyer and Souter have refused ALL gifts. Not Clarence. He's grabbing with both hands.

Why would someone do that — give a gift to Clarence Thomas? Unless they are family members or really close friends, the only reason to give gifts is to influence the judge," said Mark I. Harrison, a Phoenix lawyer who heads the ABA's Commission on the Model Code of Judicial Conduct. "And we think it is not helpful to have judges accepting gifts for no apparent reason."

"The public has to wonder when a justice accepts lavish gifts," said Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet, a legal ethics expert. "The rich and powerful have a different set of economic interests than other people, and they can afford to give lavish gifts."

Thomas, through a court spokeswoman, declined to comment when asked in writing why he deemed it appropriate to accept some of the larger gifts. But a former clerk to Thomas defended the practice.

"I don't see anything wrong in this. I don't see why it is inappropriate to get gifts from friends," said John C. Yoo, now a law professor at the UC Berkeley. "This reflects a bizarre effort to over-ethicize everyday life. If one of these people were to appear before the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas would recuse himself."
"Over-ethicize everyday life." Did you ever SEE such a twisted phrase?

They are complaining that Thomas's critics are too ETHICAL. Apparently, Thomas's friends in the legal profession believe that ethics should be practiced in moderation.

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