Senate Democrats’ affection for slinging mud at Republican-nominated Supreme Court justices dates back decades. Yet, even after years of failed attempts to stifle confirmations and ruin reputations, their campaign to delegitimize the justices and institution as a threat to their unconstitutional agenda continues with a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on “ethics.”
Democrats claim their concerns about justices’ financial disclosure and ethics practices predate the Biden administration. But it wasn’t until a string of coordinated recent hit pieces calling conservative-nominated justices’ integrity into question that leftist legislators on the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to take action.
Politico’s Heidi Przybyla, who smeared Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, recently painted Justice Neil Gorsuch’s real estate — initiated two years before confirmation to the Supreme Court — as a picture of corruption. That piece of shoddy “investigation” was debunked just as easily as ProPublica’s attempt to accuse Justice Clarence Thomas of cozying up with a conflict of interest was quashed.
To justify their ongoing smear campaign, Democrats brought in congressional witnesses such as Kedric Payne, who is not only quoted in Politico’s Gorsuch smear but also works for a legal group that asserts on its front page the Supreme Court is “a threat to our democracy.”
They’ve also already introduced legislation that would compel the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal courts’ policymaking body, to create a code of conduct, designate an Ethics Investigations Counsel, and mandate justices to disclose cases in which they recused or risk losing the court’s federal funding for their requested security budget.
Republicans, however, saw right through the Democrats’ shenanigans and their sham hearing.
“This is not about trying to upgrade the ability of the court to be more transparent, but an effort to destroy the legitimacy of this current conservative court,” Ranking Member Lindsey Graham said in his opening statement.
“The truth is the left simply disagrees with [Thomas’s] decisions and with the decisions of our current Supreme Court,” Republican Sen. Mike Lee said at the hearing. “And they obviously can’t persuade the American people to adopt their radical policies through legislation, so they’re attempting to destroy the court’s credibility and intimidate the Republican-appointed justices and their families. Starting with Justice Thomas, they’re making clear that justices who disagree with them will pay a price.”
The Supreme Court Is No Home Depot
Democrats complained the Supreme Court’s current ethical framework, which relies on in-house investigation, is not good enough. Sen. Mazie Hirono specifically said SCOTUS needs new, “binding” ethical rules because, in addition to federal judges, Congress, and members of the executive branch, even private companies like Home Depot subscribe to strict policies.
“Home Depot tells all its employees that conflict occurs when private interests even appear to interfere with the company’s interests and that the perception of a conflict by others can be just as damaging,” Hirono insisted.
The problem with that kind of “get more done” thinking is that decisions about Supreme Court ethics are not for Congress to decide.
As several Republican congressmen and at least two witnesses, including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, noted during the hearing, the Supreme Court is “solely responsible for its financial disclosure and ethics rules.”
“The relationship the Constitution establishes between the Article One Congress and the Article Three Supreme Court is one of co-equals,” witness Thomas Dupree Jr., a partner and co-chair of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm, said during his testimony. “The judiciary is not an inferior branch.”
All nine members of the Supreme Court also signed a statement for the judiciary committee explaining that they did not plan to testify. Chief Justice John Roberts specifically wrote that any future congressional testimony by him on any issue would remain “exceedingly rare, as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence.”
Dems Drum Up Fake ‘Ethics’ Crisis While Dobbs Leaker, Leftist Provokers, And Their Own Party Get Away Scot-Free
It’s true that, as Democrats claim, Americans have historically low trust in the head of the judicial branch of the U.S. government. Yet, judiciary committee members rejected attempts to explore their role in the loss of that faith.
Democrats don’t actually care about ethics. If they did, they would have already addressed their own decades-old violations.
Not only has the Senate Select Committee on Ethics issued zero disciplinary sanctions since 2007, but some of the same congressmen lecturing Republicans on why the court needs to be babied are guilty of crossing ethical lines. Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Peter Welch all raised eyebrows with their shady actions in the past yet didn’t receive any punishment or meaningful pushback.
As recently as 2022, Biden-nominated Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson had to revise her financial disclosures. Similarly, Justice Sonia Sotomayor amended her financial disclosures in 2021 while Justice Stephen Breyer made several long-term travel arrangements that were funded by the left-wing Pritzker family. Once again, these actions, which were recently deemed by Democrats and the corporate press as contentious for conservative-nominated justices, were quickly accepted by those same political players as routine.
This is the playbook followed by politicians like Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who publicly threatened conservative court appointees over how they use their decision-making authority.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” Schumer said in March 2020.
One year ago today (May 2nd), an unnamed leaker prematurely released the Supreme Court’s decision to rule in favor of ending Roe v. Wade. Leftist legislators freaked out while angry mobs and at least one assassin surrounded the justices’ homes.
Justice Samuel Alito disclosed to the Wall Street Journal in late April that he has “a pretty good idea who is responsible” but warned, “that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody.”
While the status of punishing or potentially firing the person who violated federal law is muddy, Alito did acknowledge that the leak “was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft . . . from becoming the decision of the court.”
“And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside — as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court,” he admitted.
The lack of accountability for those who wreaked havoc on the justices’ reputations and safety rests not on the absence of a congressionally-mandated code of ethics; it rests on a lack of interest by those in power — the Democrats — to investigate, condemn, and prosecute.
The judiciary committee shouldn’t have spent two and half hours asking, “How low can the court go?” as Durbin posited on Tuesday morning. It should have asked, “How low are Democrats willing to go to delegitimize an institution they no longer deem useful to their cause.”