Clarence Thomas, who accepted lavish gifts from a billionaire, argued that a law prohibiting taking bribes is too vague to be fairly enforced
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said a law prohibiting bribe-taking is too vague to enforce.
He signed off on a concurring opinion written by Neil Gorsuch in a Thursday Supreme Court decision.
In April, ProPublica revealed Thomas accepted lavish gifts from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — who accepted lavish gifts and luxury vacations from a billionaire for years — signed off on a Supreme Court opinion Thursday arguing that a law prohibiting taking bribes is too vague to be fairly enforced.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion — on which Thomas signed off — that a federal anti-bribery law wasn't clear enough.
The case involved Joseph Percoco, a former aide of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who was accused of taking money from a local developer and convicted in 2018 of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.
Percoco's lawyers argued he couldn't be prosecuted because the payments happened while he wasn't working for the government. At the time, he had quit his government job to join Cuomo's reelection campaign.
His attorneys said the law only applied to government workers, not people who don't hold actual political power.
The majority of the Supreme Court sidestepped that claim, but Gorsuch and Thomas tackled it head-on.
"To this day, no one knows what 'honest-services fraud' encompasses," Gorsuch wrote. "And the Constitution's promise of due process does not tolerate that kind of uncertainty in our laws — especially when criminal sanctions loom."
"The Legislature must identify the conduct it wishes to prohibit," he later added. "And its prohibition must be knowable in advance — not a lesson to be learned by individuals only when the prosecutor comes calling or the judge debuts a novel charging instruction."
In April, a ProPublica report found Thomas had accepted gifts, including lavish vacations, yacht travel, and school tuition for a child in his care, among other things, from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow over the course of years. Crow described Thomas as a friend and insisted he never sought to influence the conservative Supreme Court justice.
In the wake of the ProPublica report, a group of 15 Democratic senators called on Sen. Chris Van Hollen — the chair of a subcommittee in charge of the Supreme Court's budget — to withhold $10 million from the Supreme Court's budget until it institutes a public code of ethics.
Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Crow for a list of any gifts he's given to a Supreme Court justice or their family.
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