Is Justice Thomas another Abe Fortas. Who's Abe Fortas?
Trump's an idiot, should do us all a favor and step in front of a bus.
History will show, however, that he made only one lasting mistake that's harmed this nation. What you ask? Putting three idiots on the Supreme Court who rolling back Roe v Wade. That mistake will fracture American politics and doom fiscal conservatism in this country.
The other mistake comes from the army of morons that is still fiercely loyal to Trump and will ensure he gets the nomination (as his competitors dilute each other's chances down to zero)
The False Abe Fortas Analogy
His corrupt behavior on the Supreme Court was unlike anything the current Justices are accused of.
By Ilya Shapiro, WSJ
May 10, 2023 1:17 pm ET
Justice Abe Fortas, Oct. 23, 1967. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Abe Fortas has been in the news of late—a feat for someone who died in 1982. Amid a campaign by Democrats and partisan journalists to tar conservative Supreme Court justices for “ethics” violations, outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post and NPR have cited the example of Fortas’s 1969 resignation, implying that the justices they disfavor might want to follow it.
But there’s no parallel. Fortas embodied cronyism and corruption, with direct conflicts of interest involving parties with business before the high court and legal advice to a businessman who was investigated, indicted and convicted of federal felonies. He also acted as a regular adviser to a president whose administration, like every administration, was a repeat Supreme Court litigant. None of the currently serving justices have been accused of anything remotely comparable.
While serving in the Interior Department in the 1940s, Fortas was introduced by Secretary Harold Ickes to Rep. Lyndon Johnson. Fortas later represented Johnson in a dispute over his 1948 Senate primary that reached the Supreme Court. Fortas continued advising LBJ in the White House on the drafting of executive orders, the legal implications of racial controversies and political strategy, among other matters. After Johnson appointed Fortas to the high court in 1965, the justice had a private phone line to his patron installed in his chambers. Fortas’s biographer Bruce Murphy counted 254 contacts between the justice and the president from October 1966 to December 1968.
When Chief Justice Earl Warren announced his retirement in June 1968, LBJ tapped Fortas for elevation but miscalculated the politics in that tumultuous election year. Fortas didn’t do himself any favors before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he denied he had given legal advice to the president or had participated in policy decisions. In the words of another biographer, Laura Kalman, “He simply lied.” When Fortas told the committee he didn’t recall making personnel recommendations to the president, LBJ ordered White House staff to destroy all notes from Fortas.
Morning Editorial Report
All the day's Opinion headlines.
It also came out during the four-day hearing that American University had paid him $15,000—about $130,000 in today’s money, and nearly 40% of a justice’s salary—to give a series of lectures in the summer of 1968, funded by private sources connected to Fortas’s former clients and partners. While the payment was legal, its provenance and size—seven times what any other AU seminar instructor had ever received—raised eyebrows. Fortas declined an invitation to explain himself further to the committee, which still approved him.
Although Democrats held a 64-36 Senate majority, Fortas ran into a buzz saw on the floor, with bipartisan opposition he couldn’t overcome. A motion to end debate received only 45 votes on Oct. 1, 1968, far short of the 67 needed. Fortas thus became the first and only Supreme Court nominee blocked by filibuster, although it’s unlikely that he would have commanded even a simple majority in a confirmation vote. LBJ withdrew the nomination.
Then, in May 1969, Life magazine revealed that in October 1965, the same month he was sworn in, Fortas had been retained by the family foundation of Louis Wolfson, a former client under investigation for securities fraud. The foundation would pay the justice $20,000 annually for unspecified legal advice, which might have included an attempt to secure a presidential pardon. Fortas received one such payment in 1968. He then returned it and abandoned the agreement 11 months later, after Wolfson was indicted. (Wolfson was convicted and served nine months in prison.)
Fortas had denied any involvement in Wolfson’s affairs, but on May 15, 1969, less than two weeks after the article ran and days after an impeachment resolution was filed in the House, he resigned.
Details came out later that showed why it was untenable for Fortas to remain on the court. After Wolfson was released from prison in 1970, he met Fortas and recorded the conversation. The former justice persuaded the ex-con not to release 11 pages of their correspondence, including letters about the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and a letter in which Wolfson sought Fortas’s help in obtaining a presidential pardon. Referring to the latter, Wolfson said: “That was the only time I ever asked you for one thing. In April I wrote you a letter—of 1969. You recall? . . . I said, ‘I cannot go to prison right now; if you could do anything to get me a presidential pardon—have President Johnson call Mr. Nixon.’ ”
“Lou, don’t tell the press about that,” Fortas said. “Because, Lou, that would really look bad.”
The transcript of the conversation confirmed that Fortas, while a member of the high court, was heavily involved in advising Wolfson. At one point Fortas agreed to intervene directly with the SEC chairman, although apparently he didn’t follow through.
The transcript also indicates that there was a letter of July 22, 1965, in which Wolfson offered financial assistance to Fortas if he took a Supreme Court appointment from LBJ. Fortas had told Wolfson that he planned to reject the nomination because of the financial sacrifice. But six days later LBJ nominated him. Fortas recognized at the time that what he was doing was improper—that his relationship with Wolfson would be construed as follows: “that your giving me and my accepting the foundation post was nothing but a coverup and that what was really happening was that I was taking a gratuity from you in terms of the statute and supplementary my salary. You see? And that is very bad.”
It was. Justice Fortas resigned not over some chain of hypotheticals but over financial conflicts that failed the smell test even among his partisan supporters. He was felled by greed and hubris in a way that went beyond disclosure mistakes. It’s a far cry from any of the smears, insinuations and trivial, error-filled reporting we’ve seen leveled at the current justices over the past month.
Mr. Shapiro is director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute and author of “Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court.” Kathy Crow, a friend of Justice Clarence Thomas, is a trustee of the Manhattan Institute.