May 19, 2024

‘Ethical Crisis’: Democrats Urge Roberts To Address Alito Outcry

A coalition of Senate Democrats urged Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to take “appropriate steps” to make sure Associate Justice Samuel Alito recuses himself from cases involving regulation of the high court amid concerns about the ethics of the justices and Alito’s recent statements critical of attempts at oversight.

The group of 10 lawmakers, led by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), sent a letter to Roberts on Thursday after concerns were raised about a report that Alito took an undisclosed luxury fishing trip with a Republican billionaire who later had cases before the court.

“Since 2011, you have argued that the Supreme Court can police its own ethical conduct,” the senators wrote to Roberts this week. “Yet, this year has been marked by revelation after revelation of justices receiving lavish gifts that they failed to disclose as required by law or otherwise using their offices and taxpayer-funded resources for personal gain.”

“The Court is mired in an ethical crisis of its own making, yet its only response has been a weak statement on ethics that Justice Alito has apparently ignored,” the letter concludes.

Alito addressed the outcry in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week, claiming he had followed all required disclosure rules and criticizing lawmakers who wanted to see the court regulated. The Judiciary Committee approved a bill last month that would mandate strong ethics standards for the Supreme Court, but the legislation faces universal Republican opposition and has little chance of passage.

“Congress did not create the Supreme Court,” Alito told the Journal, referring to the efforts to impose ethics rules. “I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it. No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”

The appeal comes after a series of shocking stories detailing decades of lavish gifts and financial advantages that Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, received from a billionaire friend, first reported by ProPublica. The outlet later published details about the luxury fishing trip Alito took in 2008 with a hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer.

Singer flew Alito to Alaska for the trip on a private jet.

Republicans have largely ignored the ethics concerns, and Roberts has also resisted any calls for further regulations. In April, he told Durbin all justices follow a “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices” but make recusal decisions for themselves. The U.S. Supreme Court is the nation’s only court not subject to a ethics code.

The Democrats said Thursday that the recent reporting showcased why enforceable standards were of “paramount importance.”

“It is unacceptable for the highest court in the land to have the lowest ethical standards, and because the Court has abdicated its responsibility to establish its own standards, Congress must act,” they said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *