A group of 50 House Democrats have signed a letter calling on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from a significant Supreme Court case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which could potentially alter the powers of federal agencies. The Democrats argue that Justice Thomas’s past involvement with the conservative Koch network raises ethical concerns regarding his impartiality in the case.
The request for recusal is based on a recent report from ProPublica, revealing that Justice Thomas attended events hosted by the Koch network, including a dinner for donors at its annual summit in 2018. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), leading the initiative, asserts that staff members involved in the case are associated with the Koch network, and the plaintiffs are represented by the network’s staff attorneys.
In the Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo case, the central issue revolves around the Chevron deference, a longstanding precedent that advises courts to defer to federal agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous laws. While it remains uncertain whether the Supreme Court will overturn this precedent, recent trends suggest a willingness to limit agency powers in imposing regulations not explicitly approved by Congress.
The letter argues that Justice Thomas’s extensive personal relationship with the Koch brothers, known for their efforts to overturn Chevron, constitutes a conflict of interest that requires recusal. Failure to do so, the Democrats claim, would harm the integrity of the high court and erode public faith in impartial decision-making.
Ethical concerns surrounding Justice Thomas emerged earlier in the year when reports by ProPublica indicated that he had accepted undisclosed gifts and trips. Justice Thomas subsequently acknowledged these previously unreported trips on his most recent disclosure report.
Rep. Dan Goldman and Rep. Hank Johnson also recently reintroduced a bill proposing 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices, ordered by seniority. If passed into law, this legislation would place Justice Thomas into senior status as the first among the current justices.