Bloomberg Law
April 21, 2023, 3:14 AM

Justice Thomas Is ‘Man of Integrity’ Says Ex-Colleague Breyer

Madison Alder
Madison Alder

Retired Justice Stephen Breyer said Clarence Thomas is a “man of integrity,” as his former US Supreme Court colleague faces ethics questions over ties to a Republican donor.

“As far as I’m concerned, I sat next to him on the bench for 28 years. I like him. He’s a friend of mine. I’ve never seen him do anything underhanded or say anything underhanded,” Breyer said at a federal circuit court conference in Boston Thursday.

“My personal point of view is he’s a man of integrity,” Breyer told attendees at the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit event.

ProPublica has reported previously undisclosed trips and a property deal Thomas had with Republican donor Harlan Crow. In light of those reports, PBS NewsHour Supreme Court analyst Marcia Coyle, who interviewed Breyer on stage, asked him to share how he views Thomas and comment on a potential code of ethics that would apply to the justices.

While there is a judicial code of ethics that applies to lower court judges, it doesn’t apply to the justices.

Breyer acknowledged that the justices can make mistakes, but pushed back on the criticism that the Supreme Court does nothing on ethics. Breyer said if an issue comes up, he views it as “whatever applies to all the judges applies to me.”

He said the difficulty with a code of ethics in the Supreme Court is that the justices can’t be replaced if they disqualify themselves like lower court judges.

Earlier at the event, First Circuit Chief Judge David Barron announced plans to dedicate a learning center within the appellate court to the former justice.

As a member of the Supreme Court, Breyer was the designated justice for the First Circuit, the court on which he had previously served.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, his former clerk and successor on the court, now takes on that role. Jackson delivered video remarks to the conference, praising her predecessor and former boss.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Boston at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at; John Crawley at

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