Top Senate Democrat blasts Alito for saying Congress can't regulate Supreme Court

 August 3, 2023

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) criticized Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday for saying that Congress has no authority to regulate the Court, given recent attempts to pass an ethics bill aimed at the Court.

“Now, Justice Alito is providing speculative public commentary on a bill that is still going through the legislative process. Let’s be clear: Justice Alito is not the 101st member of the United States Senate,” Durbin said. “His intervention in Article I activity is unwise and unwelcome.”

Alito made the comments during an interview for the Wall Street Journal, saying, "I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it,” Alito said. “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”

Durbin fully intends to continue pushing for the bill's passage after the summer recess ends, but it faces a difficult path through the House, which is controlled by Republicans.

"Within this committee's jurisdiction"

“The ethical conduct of Supreme Court Justices is a serious matter within this Committee’s jurisdiction. Ensuring ethical conduct by the justices is critical to the Court’s legitimacy,” Durbin said.

“The next time Justice Alito thinks about taking a private plane to a billionaire-funded fishing trip," he added, "he should have to ask more than ‘Can I take this empty seat?’ He should have to ask if doing so is consistent with his legally-mandated ethical obligations.”

It's clear that the Constitution set up the U.S. government to have three co-equal branches that serve as a check on each other's power.

It seems that what Alito and Durbin are bickering about is exactly what that check on power entails.

What kind of checks?

It's clear and accepted that Congress can increase or decrease the number of justices, for example. Whether it extends to ethical requirements is a bit more of a gray area.

To be clear, it seems like most of the to-do about the justices' ethical lapses stems from political motivations to diminish the legitimacy of the Court after it overturned Roe V. Wade and affirmative action for higher education.

Certainly, some on the left have tried to take down conservative justices, even going so far as to suggest impeaching Clarence Thomas even though the expensive trips he was gifted were informally reported, he was told he didn't have to formally report them, and his benefactors never had any business with the Court.

The brouhaha managed to expose the fact that the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg had perhaps a much more egregious ethical lapse when she was gifted $1 million to give to charities of her choice and asked that some of them be kept private, while others did have business with the Court.

Ethical lapses everywhere

It seems that ethical lapses are becoming common in every area of government, including unelected bureaucrats that make up what conservatives call the deep state.

Asking Congress to monitor the ethics of the Supreme Court may be a bit like asking the fox to guard the henhouse at this point.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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