- Justice Clarence Thomas’ 2022 financial disclosure released Thursday adds new information in accordance with updated rules issued by the Judicial Conference of the United States in March.
- The attorney who helped prepare it, Berke Farah LLP managing partner Elliot Berke, said the disclosure refutes allegations of ethics violations “trumped up in this partisan feeding frenzy.”
- “Several other Justices have been accused of ethics infractions of late as well, and while I do not represent them, I have seen no evidence to suggest their conduct was anything other than consistent with the rules in effect at the time the reports were filed, or due to inadvertent mistakes – as is the case with Justice Thomas,” Berke wrote in the disclosure’s executive summary.
Justice Clarence Thomas’ 2022 financial disclosure released on Thursday includes additional information in compliance with new Judicial Conference rules, which the attorney who helped prepare it says refutes accusations of ethics violations that have been leveled against the justice for months.
Thomas, who applied for and was granted an extension on the May filing deadline, requested the law firm Berke Farah LLP and the accounting firm Flynn Abell Nixon LLC assist him with the financial disclosure after new rules were issued by the Judicial Conference of the United States in March. Elliot Berke, a Berke Farah LLP managing partner who assisted Thomas, said the justice’s recent disclosure refutes charges of ethics violations “trumped up in this partisan feeding frenzy.”
Over the past months, Thomas has been the subject of a number of reports by ProPublica and others alleging he violated ethics rules through accepting gifts from wealthy friends. Daily Caller News Foundation investigations revealed ProPublica, the outlet that has published the most on Thomas, shares many of the same donors with left-wing groups calling for the justice to resign or be investigated, in addition to citing ethics experts that overwhelmingly donated to Democrats.
“After reviewing Justice Thomas’s records, I am confident there has been no willful ethics transgression, and any prior reporting errors were strictly inadvertent,” Berke wrote in the disclosure’s executive summary.
“No Justice, Justice Thomas included, should be subjected to such political blood sport,” Berke said. “It is painfully obvious that these attacks are motivated by hatred for his judicial philosophy, not by any real belief in any ethical lapses. Several other Justices have been accused of ethics infractions of late as well, and while I do not represent them, I have seen no evidence to suggest their conduct was anything other than consistent with the rules in effect at the time the reports were filed, or due to inadvertent mistakes – as is the case with Justice Thomas.”
Updated Judicial Conference regulations that took effect on March 14, 2023, clarify that “transportation that substitutes for commercial transportation” would not be included under the personal hospitality reporting exemption as it was previously understood to be.
In accordance with new rules, Thomas’ 2022 disclosure includes four private flights. (RELATED: ProPublica’s Top Donors Also Bankroll Activist Groups Targeting Justice Clarence Thomas)
The first was the return trip from a February event in Dallas, Texas, the “Old Parkland Conference,” where Thomas was slated to deliver the keynote address, according to the schedule. The event was inspired by Thomas Sowell’s 1980 Fairmont Conference, a gathering of people in the black community with “unorthodox” views, which Thomas attended while a congressional aide.
Thomas initially bought a round-trip ticket for he and his wife to fly commercially on Southwest Airlines. But when an ice storm impacted commercial travel and cut the conference short, Harlan Crow offered to fly them back to Washington, D.C. on the return trip, a close friend of Thomas, who traveled with him to the event, told the DCNF.
The disclosure notes Thomas flew private on the return flight, provided by Crow, a billionaire real estate developer and long-time friend of Thomas, due to an “unexpected ice storm.”
The second trip listed on the disclosure was for the rescheduled Old Parkland Conference in May, provided for by Crow. Thomas flew privately at the recommendation of his security detail, which advised against commercial flights after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision was leaked due to increased risk, his disclosure notes.
The disclosure lists two other trips, one for a speaking engagement in March, where transportation, meals and lodging were covered by the Hatch Center, and one to Keese Mill, New York in July, where transportation, meals and lodging were covered by Crow.
The disclosure also includes further details on Crow’s 2014 purchase of Thomas’ mother’s home, which ProPublica reported earlier in the year that Thomas did not disclose at the time, and two other inherited Savannah, Georgia properties he had a one-third interest in.
“In 2014, Mr. Harlan Crow, a longtime friend of filer and his wife, bought all three properties for $133,000, along with other houses/lots on the same street,” the disclosure explains. “Filer and his wife had put between $50,000 to $75,000 into his mother’s home in capital improvements over the years, and therefore, the transaction amounted to a capital loss.”
Thomas had been advised to remove two of the properties in the years after they stopped generating rental income, and left the sale off his 2014 disclosure because he “inadvertently failed to realize that the ‘sales transaction’ for the final disposition of the three properties triggered a new reportable transaction in 2014, even though this sale resulted in a capital loss,” it continues.
Additionally, the disclosure corrects a company name that had been changed in 2006 to Ginger Holdings, LLC. but was still listed on some of Thomas’ prior forms under the old name, Ginger, Ltd., Partnership. The Washington Post published a story in April claiming that Thomas had been reporting income from a “defunct real estate firm” that ceased to exist in 2006.
The report also notes that advice was sought from “the Supreme Court’s Legal Office, the Counselor to the Chief Justice, the staff of the Judicial Conference Financial Disclosure Committee … and personal counsel” in its preparation.
“We continue to work with Supreme Court and Judicial Conference officials for guidance on whether he should further amend his reports from any prior years and have invited them to raise any additional questions,” Berke wrote.
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