By Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams
National advocacy groups representing millions of U.S. citizens on Monday delivered over 400,000 petition signatures to the offices of top Senate Democrats to demand congressional action on alleged United States Supreme Court corruption.
The groups want senators to investigate recent claims against conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and to bring Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act up for a floor vote.
Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats advanced the bill—which would require an enforceable code of ethics and stronger disclosure rules—in July, but it is unlikely to pass the divided upper chamber or the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
“Each scandal is brushed aside because the justices know that there will be no consequences, but today we are saying: Enough is enough.”
Still, the groups—including Center for Popular Democracy, Demand Justice, Indivisible, MoveOn, and Stand Up America—submitted the signatures to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
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“Each scandal is brushed aside because the justices know that there will be no consequences, but today we are saying: Enough is enough,” said Stand Up America executive director Christina Harvey. “We cannot afford to sit back and hope this issue resolves itself. We need urgent action to meet this moment. It’s time for Senate leaders to step in and do something. If the court cannot act in an ethical manner and put the will of the people over their wealthy benefactors, then Congress must act now.”
The petition delivery and related press conference outside the court came after the U.S. Senate Finance Committee last week released a report detailing how Thomas may have had a substantial amount of a loan for a luxury RV forgiven by a wealthy friend—which an attorney for the justice disputed to The New York Times but did not provide documentation to support.
Thomas has already faced calls to recuse himself from certain cases or resign from the court over his ties to the Koch network, fellow membersof the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, and billionaire real estate developer Harlan Crow.
Alito has similarly come under fire this year for declining to recusehimself from multiple cases after revelations of his connections to hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, as well as for publicly casting doubt on the power of Congress to reform the court.
“While we appreciate the steps Senate Democrats have taken to address the ethical disasters currently destroying the Supreme Court’s integrity and reputation, it is clear that more must be done,” said Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Indivisible’s director of democracy policy.
“The conservative justices at the center of this almost comical corruption are now openly mocking Congress’ authority to rein them in, and they and their network of billionaire benefactors have been emboldened due to a lack of real consequences,” she noted. “Congress has both the authority and a constitutional duty to reform the court when the justices throw the institution this far off the rails.”
“That starts with subpoenas,” Hatcher-Mays added. “Indivisibles across the country urge Majority Leader Schumer and Sen. Durbin to take swift and bold action by issuing subpoenas to address this crisis of democracy before it’s too late.”
Analilia Mejia, co-executive director of Center for Popular Democracy, stressed that “if they had any shame or conscience, Justices Thomas and Alito would hang up their robes and resign. But they don’t.”
“It’s in the Senate’s hands and it must act now,” she declared. “Our senators must investigate Justices Thomas and Alito, remove them from their seats, hold hearings, and pass a code of ethics for Supreme Court justices.”
Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams.