Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts on Monday echoed other members of Congress who have urged U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to step down over mounting evidence of unethical behavior, and he also reiterated progressives’ long-standing demand to expand the court.
“I will say what needs to be said: Clarence Thomas should resign from the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Markey. “His reputation is unsalvageable. It is evident that he cannot judge right from wrong, so why should he be judging the country’s most important cases on its highest court?”
Markey spoke alongside Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in Boston, at the launch of their “Just Majority” bus tour, which is designed to highlight how, in Markey’s words, “conservative special interests have hijacked our justice system and laid siege to our most fundamental human rights.”
The 20-stop tour comes in the wake of multiple revelations about the gifts Thomas secretly accepted for decades from Harlan Crow, a billionaire real estate magnate, collector of Nazi memorabilia, and megadonor to the Republican Party. Crow’s undisclosed financial ties to Thomas include all-expenses-paid luxury vacations and the purchase of a property owned by Thomas, which Crow upgraded while Thomas’ mother still lived in it. Crow has connections to right-wing groups that have been involved in Supreme Court cases since Thomas was first confirmed to the bench in 1991.
Thomas is far from alone when it comes to conflicts of interest on the high court. One day after the Massachusetts lawmakers’ kick-off event, it was revealed that roughly a week after his April 2017 confirmation, Justice Neil Gorsuch and his business partners sold a 40-acre Colorado ranch for almost $2 million to an undisclosed buyer. The purchaser, Brian Duffy, is the CEO of a law firm that has since been involved in 22 cases before the court.
Despite growing evidence of corruption, Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday refused to accept an invitation to testify at an upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the need for Supreme Court ethics reforms.
With his Monday remarks, Markey joined Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and a handful of House Democrats—including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.)—who had previously implored Thomas to leave the court.
In addition to demanding Thomas’ resignation, Markey joined Pressley and Warren in calling for wide-ranging reforms to the nation’s chief judicial body, including adding seats and implementing robust ethical standards.
As The New Republic reported Tuesday: “Markey assailed the court as being ‘broken,’ with justices flouting financial restrictions and ethical standards while the court inflicts ‘painful real-world consequences’ upon people. He listed an array of cases as evidence of how people’s ‘most fundamentally held freedoms are under siege.'”
In 2022, the high court’s reactionary supermajority eliminated the constitutional right to abortion care, opening the door to further attacks on rights long safeguarded by the 14th Amendment’s substantive due process clause; weakened gun restrictions; undermined the separation of church and state; eroded hard-won civil liberties; and curbed the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, potentially gutting federal regulatory power in general.
“But when something is broken, we don’t just agonize, we organize,” Markey said Monday.
Markey, Pressley, and Warren all proposed increasing the size of the court—a move that has been made seven times throughout U.S. history—and enacting much stronger ethics rules.
While only a few members of Congress have called on Thomas to resign, there is a large appetite among voters for meaningful Supreme Court reform.
Polling data shows that public approval of the Supreme Court has been dwindling for months. According to a survey conducted last week, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults no longer have confidence in the high court.
“We have to ensure that the mockery which Justice Clarence Thomas is actually committing is corrected because it is a violation of public trust,” Markey said Monday. “Clarence Thomas is serving on the high court with the highest level of corruption.”