A group of Democrats is urging Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to open investigations into Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas following a series of allegations about the justices’ ties to Republican billionaires and their repeated violations of finance laws.
Eighteen House Democrats sent a letter to Roberts on Tuesday, urging him to open an investigatory arm within the Court and saying that the group’s investigations should start with Alito and Thomas. The letter was led by Rep. Dan Goldman (D-New York) and signed by members who represent former employees in the criminal legal system. The letter was first reported on by NBC.
The Democrats expressed deep concern that Roberts has refused to enforce ethics principles for justices and has instead insisted that the justices can police themselves — despite no real incentive to do so and no evidence that they are willing to, either.
“Despite your insistence that the Court can police itself, you have provided no rationale or vision for how the Court will do so,” the lawmakers wrote. “Moreover, the Court’s failure to conduct a meaningful, independent investigation into allegations against Justices Thomas and Alito only underscores widespread concerns that the Supreme Court is not subject to a code of ethics or an adequate enforcement process.”
The lawmakers went on to detail the many concerns that have been raised about Thomas and Alito in recent months and years.
Thomas has been facing calls to resign or be removed from the Court for over a year now. First, it was over his wife’s close ties and role in orchestrating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, as the lawmakers pointed out. Thomas has also hidden huge sums of money that his wife was paid by shady right-wing interests, including Leonard Leo’s deal to pay her at least $80,000 from a judicial nonprofit and her payments from the far right Heritage Foundation, totalling over $686,000 between 2003 and 2007.
In recent weeks, the calls for Thomas’s removal have been reignited in the face of stunning revelations that, for years, Thomas accepted and didn’t disclose lavish gifts from and a least one real estate deal with GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts or cash being funneled to the Supreme Court justice.
“We are especially concerned about the numerous recent reports of Justice Clarence Thomas’s highly questionable ethical decisions, including conflicts of interests related to his wife and other beneficial financial relationships with billionaire and political donor Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo, who oversees a multi-billion-dollar dark money operation to influence the Supreme Court,” the lawmakers wrote. “The Court does not appear to have conducted an investigation into any of these allegations.”
“Using a revamped and independent internal investigative process, we urge that investigative body to engage in a substantial investigation — culminating with a public report — on the many allegations of ethical lapses and conflicts of interest,” they continued.
The lawmakers then went into allegations against Alito, who was the subject of a ProPublica investigation published last week that found that Alito has accepted at least one gift from GOP hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, valued at at least $100,000. Later, when Singer’s hedge fund had a case in front of the Supreme Court, Alito ruled in his favor, and the hedge fund was paid $2.4 billion as a result of the ruling.
Alito has also been under scrutiny over his alleged leaking of the decision of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a landmark 2014 case that set a precedent allowing religious employers to opt out of covering certain contraceptive care for employees, in a huge win for evangelical, right-wing activists and a huge loss for reproductive rights.
The Alito and Thomas allegations “pose grave threats to the legitimacy of the Court,” the lawmakers concluded. “If, as you say, the Court is capable of upholding the highest ethical standards, then we hope you will accept our recommendations to establish an independent and transparent investigative body and separate ethics counsel to regain the trust and confidence of the American people.”
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