Justice Clarence Thomas reported a luxury trip, private jet flights and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire in his annual financial disclosure form, which was released on Thursday morning.
In an unusual move, the justice, who has been under increased scrutiny in recent months after he failed to disclose gifts and travel paid for by wealthy friends, included a detailed defense of his previous filings.
Justice Thomas wrote that he had “adhered to the then existing judicial regulations as his colleagues had done, both in practice and in consultation with the Judicial Conference.”
But he said he “continues to work with Supreme Court officials and the committee staff for guidance on whether he should further amend his reports from any prior years.”
The justices file the financial forms each spring, and most were released in early June. But Justices Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. requested 90-day extensions, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which collects and publishes the forms. It was not clear why the justices asked for extensions. Justice Alito’s financial disclosure form was also released on Thursday morning.
In particular, the nature of Justice Thomas’s decades-long relationship with a Texas real estate magnate who donates to conservative causes, Harlan Crow, elicited questions after a series of reports in ProPublica described the extent of his generosity and the justice’s failure to disclose it. Mr. Crow treated the justice on a series of lavish trips, including flights on his private jet, island-hopping on his superyacht and vacationing at his estate in the Adirondacks. Mr. Crow also bought the justice’s mother’s home in Savannah, Ga., and covered a portion of private school tuition for the justice’s great-nephew, whom he was raising.
Other wealthy friends have hosted Justice Thomas, including David L. Sokol, the former heir apparent to Berkshire Hathaway. Another, Anthony Welters, underwrote — at least in part — his motor coach, a 40-foot Prevost Marathon that he has said allows him to slip away from the “meanness that you see in Washington.”
Justice Alito, for his part, acknowledged in June that he had taken a private plane on a vacation in 2008 to a luxury fishing lodge in Alaska, where he was hosted by Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire. In the years that followed, Mr. Singer repeatedly had business before the court.
Both justices have insisted that the gifts and travels did not need to be reported.
Justice Thomas said in a statement that he had been advised that he did not need to disclose such trips because they were “personal hospitality from close personal friends.”
Before ProPublica published an article about his travels with Mr. Singer, Justice Alito took the unusual step of pre-empting the report by defending his actions in The Wall Street Journal. He wrote that he was not required to report the trip because “justices commonly interpreted this discussion of ‘hospitality’ to mean that accommodations and transportation for social events were not reportable gifts.” He had not disclosed the private flight, he added, because it was “transportation for a purely social event.”