Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Supreme Questions

I’ve wondered why the United States Supreme Court sees itself as above the law on several important matters, including ethics and financial disclosure.  I’m not the only one.

From Charlie Pierce:

I tried to warn the chief justice, but he wouldn’t listen. And now here comes the nor’easter from Rhode Island:

On Saturday, the Chairmen released their previous correspondence with the Supreme Court about Faith and Action, and pledged to continue seeking answers and working to require the Court to adopt mandatory ethics rules in line with the other branches of the federal government. Their new letter sent yesterday evening reiterates those calls and asks new questions of Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court’s legal counsel, including whether the allegations regarding Faith and Action have been investigated internally and whether the Court has reevaluated any of its procedures related to judicial ethics. “Our previous letter identified reports of conduct by justices that increasingly appear out of line with the conduct permissible for other federal judges and, in some cases, may be inconsistent with federal law. Recent reporting by the New York Times that the orchestrators of this judicial lobbying campaign may have used their access to certain justices to secure confidential information about pending cases only deepens our concerns about the lack of adequate ethical and legal guardrails at the Court,” Whitehouse and Johnson wrote last night.

They’re coming for you, chief. Things have spun out of your control. Among other things Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is eager to hear a little bit more about:

Has the Supreme Court opened an investigation into any of the allegations set forth in our September 7, 2022, letter, the July 2022 letter from Reverend Robert Schenck to Chief Justice Roberts, or any other allegations contained in the relevant reporting from Rolling Stone, Politico, or the New York Times? [links added] If so, please provide relevant details regarding the management of that investigation, including which individual and/or office is leading the investigation and how and on what date the investigation was launched.

Has the Court reevaluated any of its practices, procedures, or rules related to judicial ethics, or the justices’ receipt and reporting of gifts and travel, in light of the July 2022 letter from Reverend Robert Schenck to Chief Justice Roberts?

Who is responsible for policing the relationship between the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Historical Society to ensure that paid membership in the Society is not used as a means of gaining undue influence?

It may assist the resolution of these issues if the Court were to designate an individual knowledgeable about them to provide testimony to us about the existence or not, and the nature if they exist, of any procedures that guide inquiry, investigation and determination of factual issues related to ethics or reporting questions raised about justices’ conduct.

That last part is the sound of the hunter’s horn. If Roberts won’t come to them, they’ll settle for an ambassador, as long as they’re satisfied the ambassador is empowered to deal. The truly ironic thing is that, in any fight between the court and the Congress, Roberts’ staunchest institutionalist allies may wind up being Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson. They truly respect the institution the way he allegedly did once. They recuse themselves from cases in which their participation might be improper (Jackson was barely settled in her chair when she had to take herself out of judging a case about Harvard’s admissions policy because of her long connection to that university). It’s obvious that Roberts can’t rely on Alito or Thomas, who’d sell him cheap to Malay pirates; they wouldn’t be protecting the court, they’d be protecting themselves. Kavanaugh is far from a rock in that regard, too. Gorsuch might be a wild card on whom Roberts could lean. Barrett would jump at shadows.

Roberts has to know that his entire legacy as chief justice is on the line right now. Smart people once told me that mattered to him.

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936), through his popular Mr. Dooley, noted that while most courts follow the Constitution, the Supreme Court follows the election returns.  And now it’s more apparent that it follows the money.

One bark on “Supreme Questions

  1. I’m not holding my breath, but wouldn’t it be swell if there weren’t a bunch of power hungry miscreants on the highest court in the land?


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