A group of 74 Democrats signed a letter to conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking him to recuse himself from any decision on health care reform. The Democrats' rationale: His wife's lobbying against the law creates "the appearance of a conflict of interest." With mixed lower court decisions on health care reform, the Supreme Court is widely expected to decide if the law is constitutional or not. Is there any chance Thomas will sit this one out? Should he? (Watch a CNN discussion about Thomas' position)
Of course Thomas should recuse himself: I'm "delighted" by the Democrats' calling Thomas out, says Barbara O'Brien in The Mahablog. His wife, Ginny Thomas, is a Tea Party–affiliated "lobbyist working against the health care reform act," and that means Clarence Thomas is reaping "financial gain from his wife's political activities" to undermine the law. "He might as well be taking direct bribes from the groups fighting the reform law."
This is about politics, not ethics: If neither Thomas or his wife has a "fiduciary interest" in the case, Justice Thomas is in the clear, says Doug Mataconis in Outside the Beltway. But this isn't about legal ethics, it's an attempt to "deflect attention" from Sen. Orrin Hatch's call for liberal Justice Elena Kagan to recuse herself because of her previous work as Obama's Solicitor General. And unlike the Democrats' "phony" case against Thomas, Hatch has "at least an argument" that Kagan should sit this out.
"House Democrats call on Justice Thomas to recuse himself..."
Let's leave all spouses alone: "I get that this is mostly just rhetorical jousting," since Thomas won't recuse himself voluntarily and nobody can make him, says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. But either way, "it's a bad idea" to argue that "judges' spouses need to be apolitical creatures or that judges are responsible for what their spouses do." That hurts women a lot more than men, and if it's true, why not ban all lawmakers' spouses from political activism, too?
"Keep spouses out of it"