SCOTUS Scandal Subpoenas Still Necessary After High Court Creates Weak Ethics Code    

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena a wealthy donor and a high-profile legal power player at the center of recent United States Supreme Court ethics scandals. The vote came after the High Court proposed its own weak and unenforceable code of conduct earlier this month amid growing criticism.

The donor, Harlan Crow, reportedly provided luxury vacations to members of the Supreme Court that were never reported by the Justices in their financial disclosures, while Leonard Leo helped organize some of the trips.

Both men have declined to fully cooperate with requests for information from the Committee.

Statement of Marilyn Carpinteyro, Common Cause Interim Co-President

The Senate Judiciary Committee had no choice but to issue subpoenas in the face of stonewalling by Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo – two men at the center of many of the recent scandals to engulf the Supreme Court. The inadequate code of ethics announced by the Supreme Court this month does nothing to change the need for the Committee to get the truth about these scandals and to pass legislation creating a binding and permanent ethics code for the Court.

All of us expect and deserve a Supreme Court that maintains high ethical standards, but several current and former Justices have fallen shamefully short. The Supreme Court is the only court in the nation without a binding code of conduct, and the latest revelations join a long list of scandals that have repeatedly shown the justices cannot police themselves.

Common Cause first sounded the alarm on Supreme Court ethics more than a decade ago by revealing unreported travel by then-Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas. Our research also revealed that for years Justice Thomas had routinely failed to report his wife’s income – much of it from highly political, conservative organizations.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse deserve credit for holding this accountability vote today and for advancing important legislation earlier this year to create a binding and enforceable code of ethics for the High Court. We hope this long-overdue legislation will be brought to the Senate floor soon, and we strongly encourage every Senator to support the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act.