Seventy-four Members of Congress have signed a letter calling for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from cases involving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because of his family's financial ties to groups dedicated to lobbying against it.


"The appearance of a conflict of interest merits recusal under federal law," the letter, written by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), said. "From what we have already seen, the line between your impartiality and you and your wife's financial stake in the overturn of healthcare reform is blurred."

Thomas faced questions this week about his judicial impartiality after his wife, Virginia, launched the lobby group Liberty Consulting.

Critics say Virginia Thomas' activities at Liberty Consulting could easily create a conflict of interest for her husband whenever he rules on a case affecting one of his wife's clients. And they argue Virginia Thomas' political involvement is yet another sign of the "politicization" of the nation's highest court.

"Your spouse is advertising herself as a lobbyist who has 'experience and connections' and appeals to clients who want a particular decision - they want to overturn health care reform," the letter continued. "Moreover, your failure to disclose Ginny Thomas’s receipt of $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, a prominent opponent of healthcare reform, between 2003 and 2007 has raised great concern."

According to the government watchdog group Common Cause, Justice Thomas failed to report income that his wife earned from her work at two conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation and Liberty Central. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires Supreme Court justices to disclose their spouse's income.

"It's shocking that you would have a Supreme Court justice sitting on a case that might implicate in a very fundamental way the interests of someone who might have contributed to his wife's organization," Deborah L. Rhode, a law professor at the Stanford University Center on the Legal Profession, told the New York Times in October 2010.

"Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household’s financial gain through your spouse’s activities and your role as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court," the letter added. "We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the US Supreme Court's decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path."

With prior reporting by Daniel Tencer

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The Honorable Justice Clarence Thomas

United States Supreme Court Building

1 First Street Northeast

Washington D.C., DC 20543

Dear Justice Thomas:

As an Associate Justice, you are entrusted with the responsibility to exercise the highest degree of discretion and impartiality when deciding a case. As Members of Congress, we were surprised by recent revelations of your financial ties to leading organizations dedicated to lobbying against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We write today to respectfully ask that you maintain the integrity of this court and recuse yourself from any deliberations on the constitutionality of this act.

The appearance of a conflict of interest merits recusal under federal law. From what we have already seen, the line between your impartiality and you and your wife's financial stake in the overturn of healthcare reform is blurred. Your spouse is advertising herself as a lobbyist who has “experience and connections” and appeals to clients who want a particular decision - they want to overturn health care reform. Moreover, your failure to disclose Ginny Thomas’s receipt of $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, a prominent opponent of healthcare reform, between 2003 and 2007 has raised great concern.

This is not the first case where your impartiality was in question. As Common Cause points out, you “participated in secretive political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the [5-4] decision” on the Citizens United case. Your spouse also received an undisclosed salary paid for by undisclosed donors as CEO of Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) organization that stood to benefit from the decision and played an active role in the 2010 elections.

Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household’s financial gain through your spouse’s activities and your role as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the US Supreme Court's decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path.

We appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

ANTHONY D. WEINER