Democrats Want To Impeach Who Now?

TheTurducken, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, has reached out to Chief Justice John Roberts with a request to probe comments made by Justice Samuel Alito concerning the ethics of the Supreme Court, as noted by The Washington Post.

Whitehouse, who chairs the oversight subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is an advocate for tighter ethics guidelines for the court, addressed this request to Roberts on a Monday, which The Washington Post highlighted on the following day.

The crux of Whitehouse’s concern with Alito stems from a July discussion Alito had with columnists from The Wall Street Journal. During that discussion, Alito contended that the Constitution doesn’t grant Congress the power to dictate the functioning of the Supreme Court.

Whitehouse highlighted in a detailed seven-page letter to Roberts that the Senate Judiciary Committee has consistently heard during past nomination hearings that commenting on potential future cases is inappropriate. “In this specific scenario, Justice Alito publicly commented on a topic that could potentially come to the Court’s docket,” Whitehouse mentioned.

Earlier in the year, Whitehouse had put forward the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act of 2023, and the Judiciary Committee gave it the green light in July. Whitehouse emphasized to Roberts, “Justice Alito speaking openly about the legality of this proposed legislation might pave the way for legal disputes if the bill is ratified.” He further noted that Alito’s remarks could fuel challenges to existing judicial ethics regulations.

Additionally, Whitehouse underscored the unique nature of the Supreme Court, as it lacks a systematic method for processing or delving into such grievances.

The Washington Post posited that the reaction of Roberts will be indicative of the Supreme Court’s approach to addressing ethical grievances. Besides leading the Supreme Court, Roberts also presides over the Judicial Conference of the U.S., which shapes policies for federal courts. Historically, potential infractions by justices have been channeled to the Judicial Conference and its subsidiary groups. As per the report, Roberts could forward Whitehouse’s concerns elsewhere or might choose to address it within the framework of the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, as implied by Whitehouse.

Furthermore, Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, introduced a counterpart bill in the House concerning the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act of 2023. However, strong Republican resistance hints that the bill might face obstacles in becoming law.

On a related note, Justice Alito recently made his latest financial disclosures public after there were rising concerns about the close relationships between some justices and prominent political contributors.