web counter Media Lies: Planting the seed

Friday, December 31, 2004

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Planting the seed

There's been some speculation that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas might be considered for the position of Chief Justice if Chief Justice Rehnquist retires. This article seems exquisitely timed (or should I say "cynically timed"?) to undermine any effort to promote Thomas for the position. (They were already worked into a lather over his $500,000 book advance.)
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted tens of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts since joining the Supreme Court, from $1,200 worth of tires to valuable historical items and a $5,000 personal check to help pay a relative's education expenses.

Justice Thomas has reported accepting much more valuable gifts than his Supreme Court colleagues over the last six years, according to their disclosure forms on file at the court.

Among the gifts was a free trip aboard a private jet to the exclusive Bohemian Grove club in northern California that was arranged by Harlan Crow of Dallas, a wealthy real estate investor who has helped run an advocacy group that filed briefs with the Supreme Court. He is the son of Dallas real estate executive Trammell Crow.

Mr. Crow also gave Mr. Thomas a Bible once owned by the 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass, which Justice Thomas valued at $19,000.

Those and other gifts were disclosed by Justice Thomas under a 1978 federal ethics law that requires high-ranking government officials, including the nine Supreme Court justices, to file a report each year that lists gifts, money and other items they have received.
Of course this has always been public information, and Justice Thomas has been on the court for thirteen years, so it seems particularly peculiar that the media has "discovered" this information right now.

Furthermore, listing many of the larger gifts he's ever received without any reference to the time frame within which they've been received leaves the reader with the impression that Justice Thomas has just recently been gifted with great largesse and is not at all bothered by the impropriety of it all. How different would the readers' perspective be if they knew that Justice Thomas received no gifts in 2003? (His 2004 disclosure statement won't be filed until April, 2005.)

Naturally, the attacks on Justice Thomas will begin immediately.
But in October, an American Bar Association panel called for tightening the rules to forbid judges to accept expensive gifts, free tickets and other valuable items, regardless of the donor.

"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 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."
You can't get much more cynical than Mr. Harrison. Who gets to decide the criteria for "family members or really close friends"? What exactly is the influence the giver is supposed to have? Mr. Harrison never says. He just implies that it's impossible for a judge to receive gifts without returning the favor somehow.

The cynic in me can't help but wonder if Justice Thomas would receive all the criticism that he has if he were white instead of black. It seems that liberals simply can't stand it when "one of their own" goes "off the reservation". The possibility that Justice Thomas just might be an extremely intelligent man who can think for himself and come to different conclusions than liberals do never seems to enter their mind.

Justice Thomas, despite his critics, has had a distinguished career and has served ably on the Court. The folks at the Volokh Conspiracy certainly think Thomas would make a great Chief Justice, and who am I to argue with them. :-)