From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Under pressure from liberal critics, Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court acknowledged in filings released on Monday that he erred by not disclosing his wife’s past employment as required by federal law.
Justice Thomas said that in his annual financial disclosure statements over the last six years, the employment of his wife, Virginia Thomas, was “inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions.”
The justice came under criticism last week from Common Cause, a liberal advocacy group, for failing to disclose Mrs. Thomas’s employment as required under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. While justices are not required to say how much a spouse earns, Common Cause said its review of Internal Revenue Service filings showed that the Heritage Foundation paid Mrs. Thomas $686,589 from 2003 to 2007.
The group also asserted that Justice Thomas should have withdrawn from deciding last year’s landmark Citizens United case on campaign finance because of both Mrs. Thomas’s founding of another conservative political group in 2009 and Justice Thomas’s own appearance at a private political retreat organized by Charles Koch, a prominent conservative financier.
Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, said he found Justice Thomas’s explanation about the omission to be “implausible.”
As a Supreme Court justice who regularly hears complex legal cases, “it is hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form.”
Deborah L. Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in judicial ethics, said the recent episodes could do some harm to Justice Thomas’s reputation. But she added that it was unlikely to have any lasting impact on him or on the disclosure requirements that give justices wide leeway to decide whether they have a financial conflict in hearing a case.
Professor Rhode noted, for instance, that it was still unknown who contributed a total of $550,000 to Liberty Central, the conservative legal group that Mrs. Thomas founded in 2009 in opposition to President Obama’s policies. The amended disclosures filed by Justice Thomas, which do not include income in 2010, do not mention Liberty Central, and no regulation requires the group or the Thomases to disclose the source of the group’s financial support.