U.S. Supreme Court’s Clarence Thomas Delays Filing of Annual Financial Statement

By Andrew Chung and John Kruzel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, under scrutiny over revelations he failed to disclose luxury trips paid for by a billionaire Dallas businessman, has received a extension to file its annual financial statement, the court heard on Wednesday.

Supreme Court justices, like some other senior government officials, are required by US law to file annual financial returns showing outside income and gifts.

Conservative Judge Samuel Alito also won an extension, the court said, while the other seven justices filed theirs.

The court has come under fire from many Democrats in Congress in recent months over ethics issues involving some of its justices, particularly Thomas.

News outlet ProPublica reported in April that Thomas had been accepting luxury trips from Republican businessman and donor Harlan Crow for decades, including on a private jet and a superyacht, without disclosing them publicly. He also detailed real estate transactions involving Thomas and Crow.

Food and other “personal hospitality,” such as lodging in an individual’s residence, are generally exempt from disclosure, although the Judicial Conference, the decision-making body for the entire federal judiciary, has tightened its exemption regulations, including requiring private jet transportation to be disclosed.

Thomas, the most senior of the judges, said in response to the ProPublica report that he had been told that under previous rules he was not required to report hospitality from “close personal friends” but had the intend to follow the new guidelines.

In 2016, Thomas revealed in his filing that Crow gave him a bronze bust of 19th-century abolitionist and slavery writer Frederick Douglass, valued at $6,500.

Separately, news outlet Politico reported that conservative judge Neil Gorsuch failed to disclose the buyer of a Colorado property he had a stake in — the chief executive of a major law firm whose attorneys have been involved in numerous cases before the Supreme Court.

The recent revelations have reignited calls, especially from Democrats, for ethics reform at the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court justices are not bound, like other federal judges, by a code of conduct adopted by the Judicial Conference that includes avoiding even the “appearance of impropriety.” Chief Justice John Roberts said Supreme Court justices look to this code to assess their own ethical obligations.

Last month, the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee explored the possibility of pursuing legislation to impose ethical standards on judges. Roberts declined an invitation to testify at the hearing, and none of the judges appeared. Republicans on the panel generally opposed imposing ethics rules, but some urged judges to take action themselves to improve transparency in court.

Roberts is due to collect a salary of $298,500 this year, slightly higher than the $285,400 paid to the other eight justices. In accordance with annual salary adjustments mandated by federal law, these amounts represent increases from 2022, when Roberts received $286,700 and the others $274,200.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and John Kruzel in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

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