A company related to Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, a longtime friend of Clarence Thomas who paid for lavish trips for the Supreme Court justice and his wife, had business before the Supreme Court in the mid-2000s, records show.
Crow’s name does not appear in a caption of the case, which concerned a dispute related to a copyrighted architectural drawing, and his office said neither Crow nor his company were involved in the matter or discussed it with Thomas.
But the revelation challenges assertions by both men that their relationship was completely separate from Thomas’ role as a Supreme Court justice and is likely to add to scrutiny over his ethical conduct. Recently, justices have been under pressure to be more forthcoming about their actions and finances, and Thomas’ trips paid for by Crow were not disclosed on his financial disclosure forms. In addition, in a statement Thomas released in April, he said that Crow “did not have business before the court.”
In January 2005, the Supreme Court declined to hear Womack+Hampton Architects v. Metric Holdings Limited Partnership, according to the docket on the court’s website. Had a justice been recused from participating in the case, it would have been noted. There were no such notations.
The Crow name does not appear in the caption of the case, but a corporate disclosure statement attached to the filing says that the corporate parent of Metric Holdings is Trammell Crow Residential Company. According to a statement from Harlan Crow’s office, the Crow family at the time had a non-controlling interest in Trammell Crow Residential Company.
“At the time of this case, Trammell Crow Residential operated completely independently of Crow Holdings with a separate management team and its own independent operations,” Crow’s office said in the statement.
“Crow Holdings had a minority interest in the parties involved in this case and therefore no control of any of these entities. Neither Harlan Crow nor Crow Holdings had knowledge of or involvement in this case, and a search of Crow Holdings legal records reveals no involvement in this case. Harlan Crow has never discussed this or any other case with the Justice,” the office said.
When the architecture firm filed its appeal to the Supreme Court, Harlan Crow was Crow Holdings’ chief executive officer and chair of its board, a position he still holds. He stepped down as CEO in 2017, according to Bloomberg News, which first reported the case and relationship to Crow.
Thomas, via a Supreme Court spokesperson, declined to comment for this story.
Earlier this month, after ProPublica first reported on the trips paid for by Crow, Thomas explained in a statement that he hadn’t disclosed the trips because he was advised that he did not have to report them under ethics rules in place at the time.
In a rare statement from Thomas and his wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas, they considered Crow and his wife as “dearest friends.”
Thomas said that the trips were the “sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends” that he was advised did not require disclosure. He noted the rules had recently changed and said it was his “intent to follow this guidance in the future.”