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US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Implicated in Scandal

Clarence Thomas
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Credit: Supreme Court of the United States / United States Federal Government / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

A scandal has erupted in the United States after a report was released alleging that a wealthy Republican donor paid the tuition fees for the grandnephew of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The donor in question is Harlan Crow, a billionaire real estate developer. Scrutiny over Clarence Thomas’ dealings first began last month when ProPublica published a report claiming that Crow had treated Thomas and his wife to lavish holidays.

On Thursday however, the scandal deepened when ProPublica published another report alleging that Crow had paid the tuition fees for Thomas’ grandnephew. The alleged payments and holidays may have broken rules that require Supreme Court justices to disclose certain gifts they receive each year.

Clarence Thomas tuition fees scandal

On Thursday, ProPublica released a report which refers to a bank statement that shows Crow made monthly tuition payments of $6,200 for the attendance of Justice Thomas’ grandnephew, Mark Martin, at Hidden Lake Academy, a boarding school located in Georgia.

Justice Thomas took legal custody of Martin – who is now an adult – when he was six years old. The Supreme Court justice told an interviewer in 2007 that he was raising Martin like a son. Martin disclosed to ProPublica that he was unaware of any tuition payments made by Crow for his schooling.

The report indicates that Justice Thomas did not disclose the tuition fees paid for his grandnephew by Crow, despite previously declaring a comparable payment of $5,000 from another acquaintance.

In addition to Hidden Lake Academy, Crow also financed Martin’s education at Randolph-Macon Academy, a boarding and day school located in Virginia, which the latter attended both before and after his enrollment at Hidden Lake Academy.

The potential implications of a scandal involving Justice Thomas have led to renewed scrutiny of ethical practices and disclosures at the United States Supreme Court. However, it has not yet been officially determined whether Thomas is guilty of any wrongdoing.


A statement issued by Crowe’s office did not refer to the tuition fees paid for Justice Thomas’ grandnephew directly, but said that the billionaire has “long been passionate about the importance of quality education and giving back to those less fortunate”.

“It’s disappointing that those with partisan political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Mark Paoletta, a former official in the Trump administration and a friend of Justice Thomas, defended his actions in a Twitter statement, stating that the reporting of tuition fees was not mandatory in this situation.

“Harlan Crow’s tuition payments made directly to these schools on behalf of Justice Thomas’s great nephew did not constitute a reportable gift,” argued Paoletta.

“Justice Thomas was not required to disclose the tuition payments made directly to Randolph Macon and the Georgia school on behalf of his great nephew because the definition of a “dependent child” under the Ethics in Government Act (5 U.S.C. 13101 (2)) does not include a “great nephew.” It is limited to a “son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter.” Justice Thomas never asked Harlan Crow to pay for his great nephew’s tuition. And neither Harlan Crow, nor his company, had any business before the Supreme Court,” he continued.

Paeoletta dismissed the ProPublica reports as a “malicious” attempt “to manufacture a scandal about Justice Thomas”.

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