The group of liberal Democrats, led Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., formally asked the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday to investigate potential ethics violations, including his failure to report "at least $1.6 million" in earnings by his wife, Virginia Thomas, since 1997. She has been a critic of the federal healthcare law, and the high court will probably hear argument on the law this term.
"We are deeply concerned about recent reports concerning potential ethics violations" by Thomas, the lawmakers said in a letter. The letter also expressed concern about the "unwillingness or inability of the court to address these allegations in a manner that promotes public confidence and trust in the judicial system" and called on the Judiciary Committee to "review these allegations to ensure the integrity of the court is not compromised in the eyes of the public."
The letter also said news reports indicate Thomas may have failed to report gifts from wealthy supporters and "inappropriately solicited donations from favored non-profit organizations."
Unlike other federal judges, the letter noted, U.S. Supreme Court justices are not subject to a comprehensive code of judicial ethics.
The (Portland) Oregonian reported Blumenauer said at a news conference a similar letter will be sent to the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Nobody is unaccountable in our system of government and we need to take steps to make sure this is always the case," he said. "These are fundamental questions about the administration of justice and it doesn't necessarily need to be partisan to make sure there are rules of the road for the Supreme Court."
In January, The Oregonian said, Thomas amended several years of financial disclosures and released letters saying some of his wife's income had been "inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions."