Legal experts: Clarence Thomas must recuse from all Jan. 6 cases after wife's role exposed
Clarence and Ginni Thomas (Facebook)

Legal experts agree that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas must recuse himself from cases involving the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The justice has fallen under new scrutiny over revelations that his wife Ginni Thomas' urged then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to help Donald Trump overturn his election loss, and legal experts say that he cannot ethically rule on cases covering those efforts, reported NPR.

"The subpoena of documents when his wife's own texts are among the pile of documents responsive to the subpoena -- that's a slam dunk," said Richard Painter, who served as ethics counsel in the George W. Bush administration. "He had to recuse. He didn't. I'd want to know why."

Thomas was the only dissent in a January ruling that required Trump's White House records to be turned over to the House select committee, and experts say he should not have taken part in that case.

"It was his obligation as a justice under the recusal statute to ensure that nothing she had been doing warranted his recusal," said NYU law professor Stephen Gillers. "[Thomas] could not maintain a kind of false ignorance, closing his eyes and ears."

The experts who spoke to NPR had previously argued that Ginni Thomas' political activism did not necessarily create a conflict of interest for her husband, but they all agreed that her texts to Meadows presented a clear ethical conflict.

"I think this is different," said Charles Geyh, a legal ethics professor at the University of Indiana. "There's a difference between having a spouse who has an active interest [in changing a law and] someone who is actually part of the story."

"I don't know how someone could be impartial when their spouse is part of the record that may be before the judge," Geyh added.

Federal law requires judges to recuse when they have knowledge of disputed facts in a case, and his wife's texts were part of the evidence covered by the House select committee's subpoena.

"He should make it clear that he's going to recuse from all of these Jan. 6 cases at this point," Painter said.