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Warren Calls for Supreme Court to Be Bound to Ethics Code Amidst Leak Allegation

Conservative justice Samuel Alito allegedly leaked a landmark Supreme Court decision to an activist in 2014.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) speaks during a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade May 3, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has called for the implementation of stricter ethics rules governing Supreme Court justices after explosive testimony from a former conservative activist revealed that certain right-wing justices had maintained close relationships with conservative evangelical groups over the course of decades.

On Thursday, evangelical minister Robert Schenck testified before the House Judiciary Committee about “Operation Higher Court” — a campaign that his former group, Faith and Action, ran for over two decades in order to gain influence within the Supreme Court.

In recent weeks, Schenck, who says he no longer agrees with the group’s actions, has detailed the anti-abortion group’s strategy to wine and dine right-wing Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in hopes of securing decisions in line with conservative evangelical interests.

“Our overarching goals were to gain insight into the conservative justices’ thinking and to shore up their resolve to render solid, unapologetic opinions,” Schenck said before the House last week.

Sharing an article about the hearing on Saturday, Warren tweeted, “The Supreme Court needs a strong code of ethics. I’ve got a bill for that.”

The most stunning allegation brought forth by Schenck is that, in 2014, Faith and Action sent a couple to have dinner with Alito — a dinner during which Alito would leak the decision of a landmark Supreme Court ruling that would not become public for weeks.

This alleged leak concerned Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which justices decided that employers like Christian company Hobby Lobby have the religious right to deny coverage of birth control to employees. The insider knowledge reportedly allowed Hobby Lobby and evangelical activists to prepare a public relations response to the decision.

Schenck’s allegation of the leak bears strong ties to the leak of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson earlier this year, in which far right justices decided to overturn decades of precedent set under Roe v. Wade. As legal commentators have pointed out, both cases regard topics of reproductive rights that right-wing evangelical activists have fought against for decades, and both leaks appeared to empower those very activists in their fight.

Warren has continually spoken up about the Supreme Court’s lack of a binding ethics code. High Court justices are the only federal judges who aren’t bound to ethics rules; though there are such guidelines for the Supreme Court, there is nothing legally stopping justices from breaking them, and the Court essentially runs on what Warren has referred to as an “honor system.”

In May, Warren and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) introduced a bill that would ensure that justices have to adhere to the Supreme Court’s Code of Conduct and that would implement other anti-corruption measures like preventing justices from being able to trade individual stocks or receive certain types of gifts.

Though government watchdogs have been calling for such anti-corruption reforms for years, the calls have grown stronger in recent months as public trust in the Supreme Court reaches record lows — and as it appears that right-wing Supreme Court justices are increasingly acting as activists, government watchdogs say.

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