Justice Clarence Thomas, in his annual financial disclosure form that was released Thursday, responded in detail to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips, flights on private jet and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire.
In an unusual move, the justice included a statement defending his travel with the billionaire, Harlan Crow, who has donated to conservative causes.
The latest financial disclosures come as the justices face increased scrutiny about their financial dealings and about the court’s lack of an ethics code. Although the justices, like other federal judges, are required to file annual reports that document their investments, gifts and travel, the justices are not bound by ethics rules, instead following what Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has referred to as a set of foundational “ethics principles and practices.”
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. Justice Alito’s financial disclosure form was also released on Thursday morning.
In his disclosure, Justice Thomas addressed his decision to fly on Mr. Crow’s private jet, suggesting that he had been advised to avoid commercial travel after the leak of the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating a constitutional right to an abortion.
“Because of the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak, the May flights were by private plane for official travel as filer’s security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible,” Justice Thomas wrote.
Justice Thomas also defended his past filings, which did not include many of the trips with Mr. Crow and other wealthy friends. He 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.”
Justice Thomas also acknowledged errors in his previous financial reports, including personal bank accounts and his wife’s life insurance, which he said were “inadvertently omitted from prior reports.”
The justice also listed four trips from 2022, the year covered by the form. Three of the trips were speaking engagements. The fourth, from July 2022, was a trip to Mr. Crow’s estate in the Adirondacks.
The nature of Justice Thomas’s decades-long relationship with Mr. Crow has 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 previous 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.”