Clarence Thomas: Res Ipsa Loquitur?

Clarence Thomas: Res Ipsa Loquitur?

As detailed today in Pro Publica        

“During his three decades on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas has enjoyed steady access to a lifestyle most Americans can only imagine. A cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to far-flung vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events and sent their private jets to fetch him — including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. It’s a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood. Like clockwork, Thomas’ leisure activities have been underwritten by benefactors who share the ideology that drives his jurisprudence. Their gifts include:

“At least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast. This accounting of Thomas’ travel, revealed for the first time here from an array of previously unavailable information, is the fullest to date of the generosity that has regularly afforded Thomas a lifestyle far beyond what his income could provide. And it is almost certainly an undercount.

“While some of the hospitality, such as stays in personal homes, may not have required disclosure, Thomas appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises and expensive sports tickets, according to ethics experts.”  

Thomas has denied all wrongdoing.

But is that the end of the matter?

Not in my view, in part because of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur

As noted in Wikipedia: “Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase, which literally translates to “the thing speaks for itself.” 

And that, in my view, is the case here.

I should add that as a technical legal matter res ipsa loquitur is more applicable to personal injury cases than to the sort of cases where Justice Thomas’s personal ethics might be at issue. But the spirit of the law – which is one of getting to the truth of the matter – is every bit as applicable.

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