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Ocasio-Cortez Calls on Congress to Crack Down on Supreme Court Corruption

The Supreme Court’s corruption has created a “full-blown legitimacy crisis,” Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin warned.

TV journalists work outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on June 14, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has called on Congress to crack down on the Supreme Court, adding to the wave of scrutiny caused by yet another barrage of revelations of corruption concerning two of the most conservative justices on the bench.

“There is a corruption crisis on the Supreme Court. And that court has shown time and time again that it is not capable of policing itself,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez on social media on Thursday.

“Congress, as a co-equal branch, must rein them in. Each day we do not, our democracy is at greater risk than the last,” she continued. “The time is now.”

Several stories in recent weeks have raised alarm about Supreme Court integrity, specifically regarding Justice Samuel Alito for his seeming alliance with far right Donald Trump militants and Justice Clarence Thomas for revelations that he has taken even more undisclosed gifts from right wing billionaire Harlan Crow than was previously known, with the known gifts Thomas has received since he was on the bench totalling over $4 million.

This includes three trips Thomas took in recent years that were funded by Crow, which were only uncovered in a report by Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, released last week, including free flights on Crow’s private jet.

Congress is tasked with regulating the Supreme Court, but has declined to do so in any meaningful way despite the slew of reports in recent years regarding the vast influence that deep pocketed judicial activists have over the Supreme Court and therefore the rights of millions of people across the U.S.

Ocasio-Cortez has long been raising alarm about ethical issues created by Thomas’s “almost cartoonish” corruption and other justices’ alliances with dark money and far right groups, and on Thursday she and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) demanded that Chief Justice John Roberts reveal whether or not he is acting on the latest revelations. Raskin and Ocasio-Cortez are, respectively, the first and second ranking Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.

“We write with alarm about the deepening ethics crisis at the Supreme Court of the United States, which is turning into a full-blown legitimacy crisis,” Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin wrote. “You have repeatedly asked Congress and the American people to trust Justices of the Supreme Court to police their own conduct…. Yet, over the past year, revelations by investigative reporters and Senate investigators have established that certain Justices have abused that trust.”

Roberts has previously refused to answer questions from members of Congress regarding corruption on the bench, while the Supreme Court has refused to adopt a binding code of conduct despite government watchdogs saying it would be only the first step toward preventing misconduct. Senate Democrats have authorized subpoenas for Crow and conservative judicial activism fixture Leonard Leo, but both have pledged to dodge the subpoenas.

The lack of internal scrutiny over justices’ misconduct, Raskin and Ocasio-Cortez wrote, “raises the question of whether the Supreme Court is unable, or perhaps just unwilling, to investigate and police its own conduct to ensure that Justices comply with their statutory and constitutional obligations.”

“Since you have refused to meet with Congress, we question what steps you are actually taking … to investigate these glaring episodes of political bias and lack of disclosure,” they went on.

The letter comes among another rise in calls for Alito and Thomas to recuse themselves from certain cases they have a conflict of interest with, resign, or be impeached.

In a speech on the House floor last week, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) called for the impeachment of Alito and Thomas, as well as an expansion of the Supreme Court and term limits.

“We need urgent action to hold these unhinged, corrupt extremists accountable,” she said. “Thomas and Alito need to be impeached and removed from the bench now. Our country deserves a Supreme Court that is acting in the best interest of the American people, not a court that is accepting bribes and doing the bidding of right wing extremists.”

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