The group of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ former clerks who signed on to a letter this week defending the justice from “attacks on his integrity, his character [and] his ethics” included one individual whose integrity has been drawn into serious question: John C. Eastman.
Eastman is accused of undermining the core of American democracy — free and fair elections — by scheming to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Prosecutors there charged him earlier this month as part of a sprawling racketeering case that also implicates former President Donald Trump.
Eastman is also currently defending his law license in a California state bar trial.
In late 2020, when Trump’s election loss was becoming clear, Eastman wrote a memo outlining the steps then-Vice President Mike Pence could take to stop the formal certification of the election in Congress. He helped concoct a plan to have an “alternate” slate of electors falsely certify that Trump won in Georgia and elsewhere.
In their open letter, the former clerks called upon Thomas’ incredible life story. The son of a young single mother living in poverty, Thomas eventually went to live with his grandparents and studied at a segregated Southern school. He fell in alongside the Black Power movement before heading to law school and turning heel, later joining the Reagan administration.
“And yet, the stories most often told of Justice Thomas are not these,” the signees complained. “Lately, the stories have questioned his integrity and his ethics for the friends he keeps. They bury the lede.”
Thomas’ public profile has taken hit after hit this year because reports have emerged detailing the extent of the favors he appears to have accepted from wealthy friends over the past three decades — expensive yacht tripsand real estate deals among them.
These trips were not disclosed via standard annual financial forms before reporters started digging into them, fueling accusations that Thomas — and the high court itself — may not actually exhibit “unimpeachable” integrity as his former clerks maintain. Thomas’ wife’s exploits have also raised alarm; Virginia “Ginni” Thomas has stood by the false idea the 2020 election was fraudulent.
Other signees include James C. Ho, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit who recently argued that anti-abortion doctors “experience an aesthetic injury” when a patient chooses to end a pregnancy; Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham; and Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino, who has helped shape the federal court system by recommending judicial appointments like those of Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
Clarence Thomas and another oft-criticized conservative justice, Samuel Alito, asked for a 90-day extension to file their 2022 financial disclosure forms earlier this year.
The forms are due to be made public shortly.