Justice vs. Justice: One went 'island-hopping.' One turned down free babka
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been characteristically quiet since the news broke that he received millions of dollars from his very dear billionaire friend Harlan Crow in the form of gifts, travel, tuition for family members, and real estate sales. He made one terse statement following the first story from ProPublica about all that yachting around the world, insisting that he did nothing wrong in accepting this stuff because he was “advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.” We’ll get back to that emphasized and italicized part.
First, let’s consider Justice Elena Kagan and the bagel gift basket. Shortly after Justice Amy Coney Barrett became the third Donald Trump appointee jammed onto the court, a bunch of Kagan’s old friends from high school decided she needed some moral support. “I somewhat tongue-in-cheek said, ‘I feel so badly for her, it must be so lonely and difficult, we should send her a care package,’” recalled her friend Ann Starer in an article by Forward.
What the friends came up with was a gift basket of bagels and lox, along with hand-crocheted cozy things, chocolates, personal mementos, and babka. “I was never sending a Russ and Daughters gift basket without the babka!” Starer said.
The group checked with Kagan to make sure this was okay. Imagine that! Also imagine Kagan deciding that no, it wasn’t okay, because she was concerned that it would be too much under the Supreme Court’s stringent gift rules.
A basketful of bagels and babka versus “nine days of island-hopping in a volcanic archipelago on a superyacht staffed by a coterie of attendants and a private chef.” Hmmmmm, which might be more unethical to accept from a dear friend? Which should require disclosure? As if it were a question for any person who is not a Republican appointee on the Supreme Court.