Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter on Tuesday called for an investigation by the US Supreme Court into allegations of “ethical inadequacies” against Justice Clarence Thomas and for ethics reforms to prevent such violations in the future.
In the letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, Rep. Dan Goldman (DN.Y.) and 17 other lawmakers called for the establishment of an independent investigative body to better enforce the Supreme Court’s ethics rules.
According to the information, the Democrats who signed the letter all previously served as prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officials NBC Newswho first reported the letter.
The group also called on the Supreme Court to set up an Ethics Council to provide judges with advice on disclosure requirements, denial and other ethical issues.
The recommendations were prompted by lawmakers’ concerns surrounding several allegations against Thomas and Judge Samuel Alito that came to light this year, and the Supreme Court’s failure to investigate them internally.
In April, a ProPublica investigation revealed that Thomas had been accepting luxury vacations and other gifts from Republican major donor Harlan Crow for more than 20 years. Crow also made a real estate purchase that benefited the Thomas family and paid the private school fees for his grandnephew, who was raised in the Thomas families. Last year, reports from multiple news outlets also revealed an alleged conflict of interest related to Thomas’ wife Ginni Thomas and she support efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
This month also ProPublica reported that in 2008 Alito accepted a luxury fishing vacation in Alaska from hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, who appeared before the Supreme Court in at least 10 business cases and repeatedly asked the Supreme Court to rule in his favor.
Alito refuted the allegations of ethical violations made against him in one Opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, which actually appeared before the ProPublica report was published.
Both Thomas and Alito have not disclosed paid vacation days and gifts in their financial statements, although a federal law This requires that judges and most federal officials disclose transportation gifts, among other benefits.
However, the court has not yet initiated any investigations against Thomas and has not investigated individual allegations further The New York Times published a scathing report claiming that Alito told people over dinner how the Supreme Court would rule in a landmark case involving Hobby Lobby. In the letter, lawmakers criticized the court’s inaction, citing how quickly the Supreme Court launched an investigation into an early leak last year Dobbs vs. Jackson Draft Majority Opinion.
“We agree that the Dobbs leak was a serious matter that threatened the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and was worthy of investigation,” the letter said. “But the allegations against Justices Thomas and Alito also pose a serious threat to the legitimacy of the court.”
in one speech Last month, Roberts said he “will be committed to ensuring that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct,” but did not specify how that would be achieved.
“If, as you say, the court is able to uphold the highest ethical standards, then we hope that you will accept our recommendations for the establishment of an independent and transparent investigative panel and a separate ethics adviser to regain the confidence of the American people.” lawmakers said in the letter.
The Supreme Court has neither a binding code of conduct nor an ethics office. ProPublica previously reportedInstead, it expects its judges to voluntarily adhere to the court’s “statement of ethical principles and practices,” the lawmakers’ letter said.
The chief justice’s comments last month, as well as the court’s failure to open an inquiry into Thomas’ failure to disclose valuable gifts, raised further concerns among lawmakers about the processes set up in the higher court to deal with possible ethical violations .
“It has become fully clear to us that the Court’s current internal mechanism is insufficient to prevent actual or apparent wrongdoing by its members or to hold judges accountable for breaching ethical rules,” the letter reads.
It continued, “This has further undermined public confidence in the institution, which is now at an all-time low.”
The proposal finds echo similar calls earlier this year called for greater accountability of Democratic senators in the Supreme Court. In April, two senators hired bipartisan bill for the Supreme Court to enact a code of ethics. were democrats advance legislationdespite opposition from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has vowed to block it.