Justice Thomas shouldn’t be held ‘accountable’ for wife’s opinions

by Chris Talgo

Over the last several weeks, many have been calling for the resignation or impeachment of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York recently tweeted, “Congress must understand that a failure to hold Clarence Thomas accountable sends a loud, dangerous signal to the full Court — Kavanaugh, Barrett, & the rest — that his acts are fair game. This is a tipping point. Inaction is a decision to erode and further delegitimize SCOTUS.”

Interestingly, the calls for Thomas’ ouster have absolutely nothing to do with anything he did or said, but rather for something his wife said in a private text conversation with then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

As an American who fervently believes in the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, I find this entire spectacle reprehensible, not to mention treacherous.

For decades, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas has been an outspoken advocate for conservative causes, which she has every right to do in her personal capacity. To date, no evidence exists that Ginni Thomas’ advocacy for conservative issues has affected the judicial decisions made by her husband, and vice versa.

While many likely disagree with Ginni Thomas’ views on the 2020 election, and many other issues for that matter, this should have no bearing on her husband’s ability to carry out his constitutional duty as a sitting member of the Supreme Court.

The incessant calls for Clarence Thomas to give up his seat on the court due to text messages by his wife is yet another example of cancel culture run amok.

We would be remiss to ignore the fact that Clarence Thomas has been the target of ire from the left ever since he was nominated to the Supreme Court. In fact, Thomas himself described his Supreme Court nomination process, which was rife with leftist accusations concerning his personal behavior, as a “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you.”

Thomas made those comments in 1991, well before the term “cancel culture” entered the mainstream lexicon. His words were as prophetic then as they are now.

Moreover, if Thomas were to be held accountable in some form or fashion because of private text messages sent by his wife, it would create a chilling effect that would undoubtedly prevent future federal judges from accepting nominations to serve on the federal judiciary.

And, if calls to hold Supreme Court justices to account based on the political views of their spouses were to become the new normal, why would it not apply to elected officials, bureaucrats or anyone else serving public office?

For those who ascribe to the slippery-slope argument, it is practically inevitable that the trickle-down effects of such a precedent would have dire long-term consequences.

Even worse, if Thomas were to resign or be impeached based on the words of his wife, who was acting as a private citizen, would that mean that all spouses of federal judges be forbidden from taking any and all political stances, lest it put their spouses’ career in jeopardy?

The bottom line is simple. Spouses of Supreme Court judges have all the freedom in the world to voice their political opinions. It does not matter if some people find those opinions to be outrageous. In America, we have the freedom of speech. And it absolutely applies to spouses of Supreme Court justices.

Chris Talgo is senior editor at The Heartland Institute.