During an appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Wednesday, Justice Stephen Breyer was asked a hypothetical about a judge whose wife is involved in issues that may go before the judge’s court. Breyer, according to the Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove, gave an emphatic defense of Thomas’ situation.
“This is a false issue,” Breyer said. “As far as what your wife does or your husband does, I myself try to stick to a certain principle, and feel very strongly about it, that a wife or a husband is an independent person and they make up their own minds what their career is going to be.”
Some lawmakers and activists have called on Thomas to recuse himself from hearing the constitutional challenge to the health care law, which will land before the Court as soon as next Term. His wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, has been involved with Tea Party-related groups that have openly called the law unconstitutional.
Breyer said spouses don’t influence justices on the bench. “My wife happens to be a clinical psychologist at Dana Farber [Medical Center in Boston], and when I get cases involving psychology, I sit in those cases, OK?” Breyer said.
Breyer also hinted that he believes proposed legislation that would bind Supreme Court justices to the same ethical code as other federal judges is a bad idea.
“The Supreme Court is different in one respect. In every other court,” Breyer said. “If [I’m a circuit judge and]I decided in a close matter to recuse myself, that’s the easy decision. That’s one fewer case I have to decide, and besides, they’ll bring in somebody else to decide it. If I recuse myself on the Supreme Court, there is no one else and that could switch the result.”