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Former SCOTUS Justice Stephen Breyer speaks out in defense of Clarence Thomas: 'Man of integrity'

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer spoke out last week to support Justice Clarence Thomas.

At an event for the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, Breyer defended Thomas as a "man of integrity," casting doubt on allegations that Thomas is guilty of ethical — and even legal — transgressions.

"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, according to Bloomberg Law.

"My personal point of view is he’s a man of integrity," he added.

The defense comes weeks after ProPublica raised significant questions about Thomas' close relationship to billionaire Harlan Crow. Through its reporting, the outlet has suggested Thomas has skirted disclosure guidelines meant to protect the integrity of the judiciary. Both Crow and Thomas have denied charges of impropriety, and it's not even clear whether Thomas has committed any wrongdoing.

More from Bloomberg Law:

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.

Breyer's remarks on Friday are actually the second time in less than a year that the left-leaning justice has spoken out in defense of his conservative former colleague.

Last September, Breyer refused to criticize Thomas' wife, Virigina "Ginni" Thomas, for her work in conservative politics.

When asked whether her work hurts the Supreme Court, like many critics of the Thomases claim, Breyer told CNN, "I don't go through that in that I strongly believe that women who are wives, including wives of Supreme Court justices, have to make the decisions about how to lead their lives, careers, what kind of career, etc., for themselves."

"I'm not going to criticize Ginni Thomas, whom I like," he added. "I'm not going to criticize Clarence, whom I like. And there we are."

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