Dobbins: Thomas’, wife’s texts give Americans another reason to lose faith in the Supreme Court

Chloe Dobbins, Staff Writer

On Jan. 6 last year, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol after the former president falsely claimed Democrats had stolen the election from him. This type of riot was unprecedented in American history, and it ended with the death of one of the rioters and more than 100 police officers being injured. Within seven months, four more officers who had been at the riot committed suicide. 

As investigations regarding the Capitol riots continue, we can all rest well with the knowledge that the spouse of a Supreme Court justice agreed with conspiracy theories claiming President Joe Biden somehow stole the 2020 election from Trump.

The wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, Ginni Thomas, sent a grand total of 29 texts to the then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urging him to keep Trump from conceding the election. It gets worse — Thomas acknowledged attending the Jan. 6 rally, though she says she was not present at the riot. Regardless of whether his wife’s beliefs impact Thomas’s own, they certainly give the appearance of partiality, giving Americans reason to doubt the Supreme Court if he does not recuse himself from future cases involving the Capitol riot. 

The general consensus among legal experts is that a justice’s spouse’s beliefs do not reflect the justice’s own beliefs; however, the issue with Thomas and his wife presents a special case. Thomas has already taken a unique stance on a Capitol riot case compared to the rest of the court in the past. In January, Trump requested documents be blocked from being sent to a House of Representatives committee investigating the riot. Every Supreme Court justice but Thomas voted to reject his request. Furthermore, in light of Ginni Thomas’s texts surfacing, several court ethics experts have pointed out that though her texts were not part of the disputed documents, they still implicated her as being part of a campaign to overturn the 2020 election. 

Basically, Thomas’s impartiality is not looking great at the moment; however, the funny thing about being a Supreme Court justice is only you get to choose when you have to recuse. Sure, there is the Code of Conduct for Federal Judges, but Supreme Court justices are not compelled to follow it. If a justice has been behaving particularly badly, they can be impeached, but this has only happened once in history back in 1805. The justice, Samuel Chase, was acquitted. 

This controversy truly could not have arrived at a worse time for the Supreme Court. In 2021, the Supreme Court’s approval rate among Americans was down to 40%, the lowest it has been in a few decades. In addition, the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — the last justice Trump appointed during his presidency — has the lowest net approval among Americans in three decades. The only people who can truly hold the Supreme Court accountable are the justices themselves. If Thomas cannot even admit he has a conflict of interest, there is no reason for Americans’ approval of the Supreme Court to rise.