Democrats in Congress and left-wing legal groups are bringing new pressure to rein in the independence of the Supreme Court with a proposed “code of conduct.”
The push is the latest effort to regulate the high court, whose members have come under withering attacks in recent years over a turn to the right under President Trump.
New attack on Supreme Court
In an apparently coordinated push, the woke American Bar Association called last week for a formal code of conduct regulating the behavior of Supreme Court justices, even as Democrats in both houses of Congress began floating bills to that end.
Democrats says the reform is necessary to restore “trust” in the court’s “legitimacy,” a common theme on the left, especially after the court repealed Roe v. Wade last year.
“The word unprecedented is starting to lose its meaning as we see more and more questionable behavior from justices,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). “And public trust and confidence in the Supreme Court is at an all-time low.”
Democrats have also agitated for more radical reforms, like court packing, in order to reduce the power of the 6-3 conservative majority secured by President Trump.
While Democrats frame the issue of “ethics” reform as non-partisan, Republicans are sure to dismiss the effort as politically motivated.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), known for playing hardball with court appointments, blasted Democrats’ “spurious accusations about fake ethical problems or partiality” when Democrats targeted Justice Clarence Thomas last year over his wife’s political activism concerning the 2020 election.
Democrats have also continued to rehash old grievances with Republican politicking, like McConnell’s refusal to consider now-attorney general Merrick Garland for a Supreme Court seat back in 2016.
Separation of powers
Supreme Court justices serve for life after a grueling, and, in recent years, often vicious vetting process.
While the justices have traditionally been trusted to do their jobs with wisdom and independence, Democrats have begun to vocally second-guess the court over a shift to the right that has endangered sacred cows of progressivism, like abortion and affirmative action.
Democrats are now talking about something they call the “Supreme Court loophole” to deride the absence of their desired reforms.
While those reforms would appear to jeopardize the court’s independence from Congress, reform advocates insist that their efforts are by no means a partisan power grab.
“That’s just the way it is covered, unfortunately, in conservative media,” Gabe Roth, of Fix the Court, said.