This is outta' the blue:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130709372http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/10/20/130702180/-no-way-to-explain-thomas-call-anita-hill-s-former-lawyer-sayshttp://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130699168
This is the most troubling part:
Long active in conservative politics, Virginia Thomas has assumed a far more visible role in the past year, founding a group called Liberty Central, which advertises itself as linked to the Tea Party. She ha...s spoken publicly about opposing what she calls the "tyranny" of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats. As president and CEO of Liberty Central, she has raised money from anonymous donors — more than $500,000 to begin with, and presumably much more since then; all of which has raised questions about a potential conflict of interest for her husband, Justice Thomas.
While some critics have said they are troubled by Virginia Thomas' political activities, the conflict-of-interest statute is aimed primarily at financial conflicts. Therefore, legal ethics experts say that a spouse's political opinions don't matter. That is particularly true in the modern age when spouses have their own careers and are free to express themselves politically. As Northwestern Law School legal ethics expert Steven Lubet observes, the conflict-of-interest law governs a justice's conduct, not his spouse's. New York University ethics expert Stephen Gillers agrees, noting that Supreme Court justices have an obligation to avoid recusal if they can. Unlike lower court judges, who can recuse themselves and be replaced by another judge, that is not true on the Supreme Court.
On the other hand, the conflict-of-interest law also counsels judges to avoid the appearance of conflict. Failure to do so could potentially cause the public to lose confidence in a justice or even in the impartiality of the court itself. Would the public, for example, come to regard the court with the same cynicism it regards other institutions if a justice's spouse is front and center, campaigning against the health care bill, and then that bill comes before the court, without the justice's stepping aside?
The ethics experts all say that the law does not impute a spouse's views to the justice she is married to. They say the only solution to the problem is restraint on the part of the spouse or, in the alternative, recusal by the justice.
That assumes there is no financial conflict. In the case of Virginia Thomas, there is one fly in the ointment, according to professor Gillers.
Liberty Central, the organization founded by Virginia Thomas, has accepted a great deal of money from anonymous donors, all of which is legal under the Supreme Court's 2010 decision striking down many of the previous limits on campaign spending. But Gillers notes Virginia Thomas is CEO and president of the group and that an opportunistic donor, by giving money to an organization that pays Virginia Thomas' salary, is in fact giving a financial benefit to Justice Thomas, too. And that could constitute a financial conflict.
That raises one critical question: How will we know if such a conflict exists, when the donors' identities are secret?