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- There are renewed calls to impeach Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas amid new ethics concerns.
- Only one justice has ever been impeached, but he kept his job when the effort failed in the Senate.
- The chances of a GOP-controlled House voting to impeach the conservative judge are slim to none.
Following a bombshell report revealing that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been accepting — and failing to disclose — luxury vacations from a wealthy Republican donor for years, there have been renewed calls to remove the judge from the nation’s highest court.
Thomas, who was accused of sexual misconduct before joining the Supreme Court, made headlines last year when he refused to step down from cases that related to his wife’s political actions. Critics have called for him to resign or be removed from the court, and many are doing so again now.
But the only way to remove a Supreme Court justice is via impeachment, and only one justice has ever been impeached. No justice has ever been successfully fired this way.
That means that, like it or not, Thomas can continue to flout judicial ethics and keep his job.
New bias accusations against Thomas
For over two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury vacations from billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow, including trips on Crow’s plane and yacht, and stays at his private properties, according to a ProPublica report published Thursday.
“By accepting the trips, Thomas has broken long-standing norms for judges’ conduct, ethics experts and four current or retired federal judges said,” the report said.
Not only that, two ethics law experts who spoke to ProPublica said these vacations appear to violate a law that requires justices, judges, members of Congress, and federal officials to disclose gifts.
This isn’t the first time that the justice’s relationships with conservative bigwigs have caused concern.
Last year, it was revealed that Thomas’ wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas, took part in efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election. Amid the backlash, Justice Thomas did not recuse himself from any January 6 cases.
Thomas’s career on the high court also started off in scandal when a former coworker, Anita Hill, accused him of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process. Thomas was confirmed anyway in a 52-48 vote.
Only one Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached
Violating judicial ethics, refusing to recuse oneself from cases, and even breaking the law aren’t reasons enough to have a justice removed from the Supreme Court.
According to the Supreme Court’s website, a justice “can only be removed from office by impeachment.”
Like the process for impeaching a president, this would involve a simple majority of the House of Representatives voting to impeach, and then two-thirds of the Senate voting to convict.
The chances of this happening to Thomas are slim.
Only one other Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached, and he wasn’t convicted.
In 1804, the House voted to impeach Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase for “refusing to dismiss biased jurors and of excluding or limiting defense witnesses in two politically sensitive cases,” according to the Senate’s website.
When the impeachment was heard by the Senate the following year, a majority of lawmakers voted to acquit Chase, so he kept his job.
While only a simple majority is needed to impeach a Supreme Court justice in the House, it’s hard to see that happening in an environment where Republicans hold control.
And even if the House did vote to impeach, it would still require a supermajority of 66 votes to convict in the Senate, and power is nearly split at the moment. The last time one party held supermajority power was over 50 years ago when the 89th Congress saw Democrats holding 68 seats in 1967.
In other words, scandals may come and go, but Supreme Court justices are for life.