Top Senate democrats focused on fixing Supreme Court slam Alito’s 'stunningly wrong' ethics claims

Top Senate democrats focused on fixing Supreme Court slam Alito’s 'stunningly wrong' ethics claims
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in 2017, Wikimedia Commons

Two Senate Democrats who for years have been focused on fixing the U.S. Supreme Court’s lack a strong code of ethics are furious after Justice Samuel Alito, once again speaking to The Wall Street Journal, claimed Congress has no constitutional authority to regulate the nation’s top court.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) blasted Justice Alito’s “fake argument” in response to a Politico piece on the justice’s Journal interview.

“I stand by my takedown of this fake argument,” Sen. Whitehouse said Monday on social media. “This opin-terview is probably an effort to prop it back up. ‘No sale.’”

Whitehouse also slammed Alito for opining on an issue not only related to the Court, but one that conceivably could come before it.

“Remember all the nominees saying to us it would be wrong to talk about issues that might come before the Court? So much for that.”

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For over a dozen years, Whitehouse has been trying to revamp the Supreme Court’s meager ethics code of conduct, one that is far less rigorous than the code of conduct all other federal judges must abide by.

In a four-hour interview with The Wall Street Journal Alito did not appear to hold back, which the Journal’s reporters called “a candor that is refreshing and can be startling.”

“Justice Alito says he voluntarily follows disclosure statutes that apply to lower-court judges and executive-branch officials; so do the other justices. But he notes that ‘Congress did not create the Supreme Court’—the Constitution did. ‘I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it,’ he says. ‘No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court—period.'”

Numerous legal experts have weighed in since that Friday interview to say that yes, Congress indeed can regulate the Supreme Court.

“I marvel at all the nonsense that has been written about me in the last year,” Justice Alito told The Journal.

He makes clear he will continue to speak out, regardless of institutional norms.

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“In the face of a political onslaught, he observes, ‘the traditional idea about how judges and justices should behave is they should be mute’ and leave it to others, especially ‘the organized bar,’ to defend them,” the Journal writes.

“But that’s just not happening,” Alito claims. “And so at a certain point I’ve said to myself, nobody else is going to do this, so I have to defend myself.”

Also on Monday Sen. Whitehouse pointed to a Washington Post opinion piece by Ruth Marcus: “No, Justice Alito. Congress should not butt out on Supreme Court ethics.”

Last week Sen. Whitehouse explained his legislation to repair the Supreme Court’s ethics code to CBS News.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) is also focused on fixing the Supreme Court’s ethics challenges, and on Sunday “forcefully pushed back on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s claim that Congress does not have the authority to regulate the judicial branch, calling Alito’s comments ‘stunningly wrong,'” Politico reported.

“It’s just stunningly wrong. And he should know that more than anyone else because his seat on the Supreme Court exists only because of an act passed by Congress,” Murphy said Sunday on CNN.

Like Sen. Whitehouse, Sen. Murphy also slammed Alito for weighing in on Congress’ ability to regulate the Supreme Court, “saying Sunday it is ‘even more disturbing that Alito feels the need to insert himself into a congressional debate.'”

“It’s just more evidence that these justices on the Supreme Court, these conservative justices, just see themselves as politicians. They just see themselves as a second legislative body that has just as much power and weight to impose their political will on the country as Congress does,” Murphy added. “It’s why we need to pass this common sense ethics legislation to at least make sure we know that these guys aren’t in bed having their lifestyles paid for by conservative donors, as we have unfortunately seen in these latest revelations.”

Watch Senator Murphy’s comments below, Senator Whitehouse’s comments above, or both at this link.

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