It’s almost as if the Supreme Court’s complete lack of an ethics code is an problem.
After a steady stream of revelations about Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’s chummy friendship with and financial ties to conservative mega donor and Hitler memorabilia aficionado Harlan Crow, Thomas’ colleague Neil Gorsuch is now under scrutiny. Just nine days after the Trump appointee was confirmed in 2017, a Colorado property partially owned by Gorsuch was sold to the chief executive of a top law firm that’s since had nearly two dozen cases come before Gorsuch and the Court, Politico reported Tuesday.
While Gorsuch did report making somewhere between a quarter and half million dollars on the sale on his financial disclosure forms, he did not disclose the buyer of the property, Greenberg Traurig, LLP chief executive officer Brian Duffy. Duffy ultimately paid more than $1.8 million for the 40-acre property that Gorsuch held a 20 percent stake in, Politico reported.
Greenberg Traurig is the ninth-largest firm in the U.S. and was the 21st highest-grossing law firm in the world in 2022 with more than $2 billion in revenue, according to Law.com’s ‘Global 200’ survey.
The property was a vacation home Gorsuch owned along with two other men; all three of them have close ties to oil and gas billionaire Philip Anschutz, the New York Times reported in 2017.
Since the sale, Gorsuch has sided with Greenberg Traurig clients eight times and against them four times, according to Politico. A Greenberg Traurig lawyer also represented North Dakota in litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency over former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which Gorsuch and the Court’s other five conservatives struck down in last year’s West Virginia vs. EPA, ruling that Congress must give the executive branch the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Duffy told Politico that he’s never spoken to or met Gorsuch. “The fact that he was going to be a Supreme Court justice was absolutely irrelevant to the purchase of that property,” Duffy told Politico. “It’s a wonderful piece of property and we’re so glad we bought it.”
It’s likely that Gorsuch and his two partners in the vacation home were glad he bought it, too; the property had been on the market for nearly two years when Duffy finally purchased it, according to Politico.
Gorsuch did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News Tuesday.
The news of Gorsuch’s financial dealings comes just weeks after ProPublica published a series of stories detailing Justice Thomas’ ties to Crow, a conservative billionaire real estate developer from Texas. Thomas accepted luxury trips from Crow for decades without disclosing them, and sold three properties to Crow, including his childhood home that his mother still lives in, also without disclosing them—likely a violation of federal law.
CNN reported last week that Thomas will “amend” his disclosure forms to reflect the sale of the property, but as for the trips, the Justice claimed they were “personal hospitality.”
The Supreme Court does not have a binding code of ethics—the only court in the entire U.S. that doesn’t, according to NPR. Since the news of Thomas’ ties to Crow broke, Democrats have called for adopting such a code of ethics and an investigation into whether Thomas broke the law.
Sen. Ron Wyden, the chair of the Senate finance committee, sent a letter to Crow Monday asking for a “full accounting of the full extent of your largesse towards Justice Thomas, including whether these gifts complied with all relevant federal tax and ethics laws.”
But Sen. Dick Durbin, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee that ostensibly has oversight over the federal judiciary, has refused calls to subpoena Chief Justice John Roberts to testify about ethics at the Supreme Court, only requesting that the Chief Justice voluntarily appear before his committee for a hearing next month about Supreme Court ethics.
In a statement to Politico, Durbin suggested Gorsuch’s sale to Duffy was another example of Supreme Court justices “falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and of public servants.”
“The need for Supreme Court ethics reform is clear, and if the Court does not take adequate action, Congress must,” Durbin told Politico.
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