Julia Conley, Common Dreams
U.S. Supreme Court watchdogs on Thursday applauded the House Judiciary Committee for announcing it will hold a hearing next week regarding allegations that Justice Samuel Alito leaked at least one of the court’s rulings to right-wing activists—and called on the Senate to follow suit in the next Congress.
The committee, which is led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and will be handed over to Republicans after they take control of the House on January 3, is set to open its investigation into the allegations on December 8.
The news of the hearing follows a bombshell New York Times report last month, in which Rev. Rob Schenck, the former head of religious right-wing group Faith & Action, said he had led a lobbying campaign targeting Supreme Court justices.
After Schenck directed his associates to donate to the Supreme Court Historical Society and attend events with the justices, Alito allegedly told two of them that the court would rule in favor of craft retailer Hobby Lobby in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby several weeks before the ruling was officially announced.
“House Judiciary is right to move quickly to investigate, and Senate Democrats should plan to take up the mantle in the new year,” Brian Fallon, president of court reform group Demand Justice, told HuffPost Thursday.
NEWS: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing about Operation Higher Court and Politicking at SCOTUS, following a bombshell NYT report about ethical issues at SCOTUS.
We have been calling for congressional investigations and applaud this move.https://t.co/0LkjoEEKwc
— Demand Justice (@WeDemandJustice) December 1, 2022
After the Times report was published last month, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)—who chair the House and Senate Judiciary committees’ panels on the courts, respectively—wrote to the Supreme Court’s legal counsel asking a number of questions about ethics at the high court, which unlike other federal courts does not abide by a binding ethics code.
The legal counsel denied any wrongdoing by Alito but did not answer the lawmakers’ questions, prompting more than 60 progressive groups including Demand Justice to demand congressional hearings, including testimony by Schenck.
Whitehouse and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and will maintain his position after the new year, have not yet announced their own investigation.
“We will continue to pursue oversight, including oversight into these latest troubling allegations,” Whitehouse said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “The people of the country deserve real answers from justices we trust to wield the power of the highest court in the country.”
Sarah Lipton-Lubet, executive director of Take Back the Court Action Fund, called the House hearings “a good first step” in demanding accountability from the court.
“We applaud the House Judiciary Committee for holding a hearing on the rampant collusion between the Republican Supreme Court justices and right-wing special interests,” said Lipton-Lubet. “It’s clear that some of these justices are simply incapable of behaving ethically or putting the law before politics, and the court is unwilling or unable to police itself.”