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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is the latest judge to face ethical scrutiny over a real estate deal, following reports he failed to disclose a 2017 property sale to the head of a major law firm, according to Politico.
Scrutiny over Gorsuch’s real estate deal, in which the judge reportedly sold a 40-acre tract of property in rural Granby, Colorado, to the chief executive of the law firm Greenberg Traurig, comes on the heels of new revelations earlier this month that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had also failed to report rental income in the past.
In the latest case involving Gorsuch, the real estate sale went under contract nine days after the judge was appointed to the court by Donald Trump and two years after Gorsuch first set out to sell off the plot, which he owned 20 percent of. Greenberg Traurig Chief Executive Brian Duffy and his wife closed on the property a month later, paying $1.825 million. Greenberg Traurig frequently argues cases before the Supreme Court.
Gorsuch reported making between $250,001 and $500,000 from the sale on his federal income disclosure forms — but did not disclose the identity of the purchaser, leaving that section blank, according to Politico.
Since the purchase, Greenberg Taurig has been involved in at least 22 cases that went before or were presented to the court, according to the report.
Duffy claimed to Politico that he was unaware Gorusch owned a part of the property when he purchased it, and that he has never met the justice socially or argued a case before him.
“I’ve never spoken to him,” he told the publication. “I’ve never met him.”
Once he learned Gorsuch was one of the owners of the property, he cleared the sale with his firm’s ethics department, he claimed.
Neither Gorsuch nor the Supreme Court have commented on the revelation yet.
Gorsuch’s failure to disclose the buyer was not illegal, ethics experts say, but highlights the need for ethics reforms in the nation’s highest court amid increased scrutiny of the financial dealings of the court’s justices.
“Investments in LLCs require more details than the justice includes in his financial disclosures,” Kedric Payne, director of ethics at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center told Politico. “This transaction appears to also require naming the buyer. The public has a right to know that justices will fully comply with disclosure rules instead of providing only a tiny peek into their financial disclosures.”
The court has come under increased scrutiny for its financial dealings this month after ProPublica reported that Thomas failed to report the income he made from the 2014 sale of three properties in Savannah, Georgia, to Texas-based real estate developer Harlan Crow — one of which was his mother’s house where his mother still resides.
Those details came to light after it was revealed that Thomas had accepted gifts in the form of luxury travel nearly every year for decades. Crow had hosted Thomas on his private jet, his yacht, his private resort in the Adirondack mountains, and on international cruises.