by Will Espero
As a former state senator, I am fully aware of the need to disclose annual financial information as directed by the law and the need to be transparent regarding gifts and other transactions of significance or importance.
Constituents expect openness, fairness, and good behavior from government officials who are making decisions impacting communities and residents. Improper interactions, appearances of impropriety, unethical moments, and conflicts of interest were and are to be avoided at all costs.
The legislative branch of government at the county, state, and federal levels has rules, policies, and laws intended to keep lawmakers honest, accountable, and ethical.
Unfortunately, we have found that the United States Supreme Court lacks many rules and policies to keep track of its members.
The revelation by ProPublica, an independent non-profit newsroom, about the relationship between Justice Clarence Thomas and conservative billionaire Harlan Crow has shown how justices or judges can possibly be bribed, bought, and manipulated with very few consequences or penalties.
The argument that Crow is an old friend with no business before the courts is weak. In my humble opinion, any United States Supreme Court justice who thinks it’s okay to accept and not disclose expensive tickets to sports events, yacht cruises, free flights on private jets, and vacations does not deserve to be on the highest court of our land.
Thus, I join the chorus of others who believe it is time for Clarence Thomas to resign from the U.S. Supreme Court. His secretive, shady private life is fine as long as he is not in his current federal position of power and influence.
If Thomas wants to live the good life at the expense of his wealthy friends, he can do it as a civilian.
The United States Supreme Court needs to reform itself and create an ethics code for its members. The appearance of favors for justices being doled out by the super-rich and wealthy is not acceptable and is completely out of line.
United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is another one who should resign. ProPublica also reported Alito accepted freebies from billionaire Paul Singer, and argued he was not required to disclose the costs and actions. Alito had accepted a free luxury trip to Alaska with Singer and did not report it.
In the years to follow, Singer’s interests and business interacted with the U.S. Supreme Court on multiple occasions. Alito and Thomas claim they never spoke about business, legal matters, or court cases, but at the end of the day, we really don’t know.
One interpretation the justices had was that accommodations and transportation for social events were not disclosable. Really! How sad that these intelligent judges who were once attorneys can’t recognize their actions may be construed to be a form of quid pro quo or pay-to-play. At the very least, I question their character and thought process.
Now, there is no specific allegation of bribery to affect a case or trial, but the actions of Thomas and Alita have diminished the reputation of the Supreme Court and brought into question the integrity of these individuals appointed by Republican presidents. Whatever reasons or excuses these justices give to justify their actions, I believe their actions were bad decisions and poor judgment. In the highest court of the USA, we do not want justices who are willing to accept expensive gifts because they can.
On another note, Governor Josh Green’s emergency proclamation regarding affordable housing is going to the courts for resolution. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Sierra Club, and other local community groups claim the lack of affordable housing is not an emergency in the traditional sense of the word, and that the governor exceeded his authority in creating a temporary ad hoc group to make decisions regarding housing developments.
This case will be one to watch as the costs of housing continue to soar in our state and the shortage of affordable housing lingers. The cost of living will always be an issue here with housing costs leading the way for many.
With the tragic Lahaina wildfire disaster, the importance of housing development and timely decisions has taken a new meaning.
Hawaii has become a state of haves and have-nots, and I believe this will be the status quo for some time. Hawaii has become an expensive place to live so it is very imperative that we provide the best education for our youth so they can acquire the knowledge, skills, and talent to land good-paying jobs here.
With a labor shortage locally and nationally, if we don’t prepare properly, more Hawaii residents will move away for a better quality of life elsewhere. It’s not easy living in or governing in the most isolated islands in the world and being surrounded by an ocean has its fill of challenges and obstacles.
by Will Espero