Author Topic: Justice Alito Speaks Harsh Truths About Supreme Court 'Ethics' Legislation  (Read 434 times)

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Offline Kamaji

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Justice Alito Speaks Harsh Truths About Supreme Court 'Ethics' Legislation

Rebecca Downs
July 31, 2023

Democrats have become increasingly vocal in their vitriol against the current U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this month, they introduced legislation looking to impose a set of "ethics" on the Court. At least one justice isn't staying silent against these attacks on the institution, though. Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Justice Samuel Alito as an opinion piece, referring to him as "the Supreme Court’s Plain-Spoken Defender."

Early on, the piece recaps the many attacks against the Court in recent years, including concerns from the Left about supposed "ethics" scandals, as one of the ways in which the Court has been in the news. Alito is then quoted for how he has to defend himself:

By comparison with the previous eight decades or so, the court has frequently declined to defer to elite political opinion, and as a result it has made news in other ways. A draft abortion opinion was leaked to the press. An armed man was arrested outside the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and charged with attempted assassination. The justices have come under attack from President Biden (“this is not a normal court”) and Democratic lawmakers. Partisan journalists have tried to gin up “ethics” scandals and incite animus against disfavored justices.

“I marvel at all the nonsense that has been written about me in the last year,” Justice Samuel Alito says during an early July interview at the Journal’s New York offices. In the face of a political onslaught, he observes, “the traditional idea about how judges and justices should behave is they should be mute” and leave it to others, especially “the organized bar,” to defend them. “But that’s just not happening. And so at a certain point I’ve said to myself, nobody else is going to do this, so I have to defend myself.”

He does so with a candor that is refreshing and can be startling...

Townhall spoke with Curt Levey, a constitutional law attorney and the president of the Committee for Justice, who offered his thoughts on Alito's interview and what they mean for the Court. Not only did Levey agree with the justice at length, but also echoed the piece referring to Alito as having "candor."

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The idea of a scandal over "ethics" finds its way in the piece once more, to close the piece, with Alito's remarks in that regard earning headlines from the mainstream media and attention from outraged leftists who already regard the Court as illegitimate. Emphasis is added:

The attacks on the court are sure to keep coming as well. Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act, which purports to impose on the justices and their clerks regulations “at least as rigorous as the House and Senate disclosure rules.”

Justice Alito says he voluntarily follows disclosure statutes that apply to lower-court judges and executive-branch officials; so do the other justices. But he notes that “Congress did not create the Supreme Court”—the Constitution did. “I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it,” he says. “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court—period.”

Do the other justices agree? “I don’t know that any of my colleagues have spoken about it publicly, so I don’t think I should say. But I think it is something we have all thought about.”

The political branches have other weapons they could deploy against the court. The Constitution doesn’t specify the number of justices, so Congress could pack the court by enacting legislation to expand its size. Last week a pair of leftist law professors issued an “open letter” urging President Biden to “restrain MAGA justices” by applying their rulings as narrowly as possible. The day the court decided Biden v. Nebraska, striking down Mr. Biden’s student-loan forgiveness plan, the president announced that he was undertaking legally questionable alternatives.

Justice Alito wonders if outright defiance may be in the offing for the first time since the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education (1954): “If we’re viewed as illegitimate, then disregard of our decisions becomes more acceptable and more popular. So you can have a revival of the massive resistance that occurred in the South after Brown.”

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