Justice Clarence Thomas took three trips in 2022 hosted in part or in full by Dallas billionaire Harlan Crow, according to a financial disclosure form made public on Thursday morning. The form also revealed that on at least two of those trips, Thomas traveled by private jet – according to Thomas, at the recommendation of his security detail in the wake of the leaked draft opinion overturning the constitutional right to an abortion.
Each justice is required to file a financial disclosure every year by May 15 with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which makes the forms available online in early June. However, the justices can receive an extension of up to 90 days to submit the forms, as both Justice Samuel Alito and Thomas did this year. The disclosures are relatively opaque, and they are intended to provide information about potential conflicts of interest and the justices’ compliance with ethical standards rather than snapshots of the justices’ wealth.
Interest in both justices’ financial disclosures has intensified in the wake of reporting by ProPublica earlier this year about luxury travel (among other things) that was not included in their financial disclosures. In April, ProPublica reported that a Dallas billionaire, Harlan Crow, had repeatedly hosted Thomas on cruises on his super-yacht and private-jet travel.
Thomas addressed the ProPublica report indirectly in his 2022 form, noting that in 2023 the Judicial Conference of the United States had “provided new guidance” on when the justices are required to disclose non-commercial transportation. Until March 2023, Thomas wrote, he was not required to report “personal hospitality” such as private-jet travel. Indeed, he noted, both he and Judge Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, who served as the chair of a committee charged with creating codes of conduct for judges, “received guidance” from staff on the Judicial Conference that private-jet travel fell under the personal hospitality exemption.
But in the wake of the March 2023 guidance, Thomas reported four trips in 2022. The first trip, in Feb. 2022, was to serve as the keynote speaker at the American Enterprise Institute’s Conference at Old Parkland in Dallas, Texas. Crow, the form indicates, paid for Thomas to fly private on his return from Dallas because of an “unexpected ice storm,” as well as his meals.
The second trip, in March 2022, was paid for by the Orrin Hatch Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The institution, named after the late Utah senator, describes its mission as seeking to “revitalize the political discourse by convening the greatest minds in American public life for high-level discussions on the public policy challenges of the day.”
Thomas once again served as a keynote speaker at an AEI conference at Old Parkland for the third trip, in May 2022. Crow paid for Thomas’s private jet travel and meals on this trip. Thomas explains later in the form that “[b]ecause of the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak, the May flights were by private plane for official travel as [his] security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible.”
Thomas visited Crow at his vacation property in the Adirondacks for the fourth trip, with Crow providing transportation to the property by private plane, food, and lodging there over six days in July 2022.
ProPublic also reported in April that Thomas had not disclosed the 2014 sale of a house that he co-owned with his mother and the family of his late brother to Crow; Crow later renovated the house, where Thomas’s mother continued to live, extensively.
The form published on Thursday provided what Thomas described as “supplemental information” about the sale. Thomas indicated that he had inherited a one-third interest in the house (along with two other properties on the same street) in 1984. Over the years, Thomas said, he had spent between $50,000 and $75,000 to improve the properties, so that he had lost money on the sale to Crow. He did not realize, Thomas said, that the sale of the properties triggered an obligation to report the transaction in 2014.
In June, ProPublica reported that Alito did not report a 2008 fishing trip to Alaska in which he flew on a private jet chartered by a billionaire, Paul Singer. Singer’s hedge fund came before the court several times in the years that followed, ProPublica noted, but Alito did not recuse himself.
Alito reported two trips for which he received transportation, food, or lodging in 2022. The first, to teach at Duke Law School, fell far short of a fishing trip to Alaska by private jet: He received lodging and meals in May 2022 while teaching a class. (On the other hand, Alito did report $5,250 in income from teaching at Duke in May; he also received $15,000 from Duke for teaching in March, as well as $9,000 for teaching at Regent University School of Law in January.)
Alito received transportation, lodging, and meals for a four-day trip to Rome, Italy, for a “religious liberty summit” paid for by Notre Dame Law School. Alito did not provide any additional information about either trip.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.