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New Report Reveals Clarence Thomas Threatened To Quit Supreme Court Over Salary

The justice believes should be paid more money.

New reporting from ProPublica revealed that a conversation with a GOP lawmaker led to speculation that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was eyeing resignation because of his salary.

The off-the-record conversation happened after Thomas left as a speaker at conservative convention in January 2000. At the time, Thomas’ salary was $173,600, equivalent to over $300,000 today. However, he was one of the least wealthy members of the court and wanted more money. On the flight home, he spoke with Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns, pressing the issue of raising his salary. “Congress should give Supreme Court justices a pay raise,” Thomas allegedly said. “If lawmakers didn’t act, one or more justices will leave soon — maybe in the next year.”

Thomas’ salary woes were due to his growing financial troubles and drowning debt. Despite wanting to remove the ban on justices giving paid speeches, the ban was never lifted, nor was his salary, prompting the justice to begin receiving high-end gifts from friends, like GOP donor Harlan Crow and conservative financier David Sokol. Unlike some of his fellow justices at the time of his appointment in 1991, Thomas still had student loans from law school, and public records showed a high level of financial strain.

During the first 10 years of his tenure, Thomas and his wife, Ginni, would allegedly regularly borrow money including a $100,000 credit line on their house and a consumer loan of up to $50,000. However, there has been speculation that Thomas purchased a Corvette and a house in the Virginia suburbs — sitting on five acres of land — in the early ’90s for approximately $522,000, just one year after he was appointed. Allegedly, the couple borrowed all of the funds used to buy the home except for $8,000 — less than 2% of the asking price.

Then, after gaining full guardianship of his 6-year-old grandnephew in 1998, the Thomases sent him to pricey private schools.

Stearns didn’t leave the initial conversation to rest. His office worked with lobbying firms in hopes of getting a judicial pay raise, according to Business Insider. During a recent interview, the GOP lawmaker said he understood where the justice was coming from. “His importance as a conservative was paramount,” Stearns said. “We wanted to make sure he felt comfortable in his job, and he was being paid properly.”

Not much has changed in salary range and disposable income for justices. Similar to state lawmakers, it is often suggested the best way for them to supplement their income is by publishing a book. Law schools also recruit justices to teach classes for a fee. Associate justices are now making $285,400, compared to $174,000 made in 2009.