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 October 31, 2023

Democrats moving forward with ethics probe into the Supreme Court

Senate Democrats are moving forward with an ethics probe involving gifts to Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices, USA Today reported. The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Monday that it will vote to subpoena individuals involved.

The investigation involves Harlan Crow, a donor and longtime friend of Justice Clarence Thomas. Crow reportedly paid Thomas's way on luxurious trips and sold one of his properties to the justice, a fact which Thomas did not immediately disclose on financial forms.

Crow also allegedly included Justice Samuel Alito on some of these trips. Thomas and Alito spent time at Crow's vacation property in the Adirondacks and on Crow's personal yacht.

Also caught up in the investigation are judicial activist Leonard Leo and GOP megadonor Robin Arkley. Leo's alleged infraction was that he accompanied Alito on several trips while Arkley is accused of hosting them, including a 2008 Alaskan fishing adventure with Justice Samuel Alito.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) and committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) announced in a statement that they were moving forward with the subpoenas. "The Supreme Court is in an ethical crisis of its own making," the pair claimed.

"The chief justice could fix this problem today and adopt a binding code of conduct.  As long as he refuses to act, the Judiciary Committee will."

The committee could vote on the subpoenas as early as next week. Of course, the people involved saw this move from critics of the Supreme Court as a purely partisan endeavor.

Crow's office said in a statement that it was "disappointing that one party on the committee would choose to pursue an unnecessary, partisan, and politically motivated subpoena" rather than allow him to present the information. "It’s clear this is nothing more than a stunt aimed at undermining a sitting Supreme Court justice for ideological and political purposes," the statement added.

Arkely did not comment on his involvement in the investigation. However, a statement from Leo pledged that he would "not bow to the vile and disgusting liberal McCarthyism that seeks to destroy the Supreme Court simply because it follows the Constitution rather than their political agenda."

Thomas and Alito believe these perks are being misconstrued and instead are part of a "hospitality" exemption that would not require disclosure to the high court. The Supreme Court has spent time since the summer reviewing its ethics requirements with an eye toward adopting a formal code.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh believes the high court should nail down a sufficient code of ethics and believes it's forthcoming. Kavanaugh, a Republican-appointed judge, said he was "hopeful" there would be movement toward "concrete steps taken soon on that."

Meanwhile, Justice Amy Coney Barrett concurred that setting up standards would be a "good idea." The issue was already approved in a bill in July out of the Judicial Committee, but it has died in Congress without support from Republicans.

There's nothing wrong with imposing a code of ethics on justices of the Supreme Court. However, it's notable that such scrupulosity has only arisen after the right-leaning court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which has caused renewed attacks on Thomas especially, Fox News reported.

Democrats are angry that they no longer have the ability to change the law by manipulating the Supreme Court. Instead, they'll pull their only trick out of their sleeves and accuse the people involved in some kind of malfeasance.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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