DemCast Joins Progressive Groups Call For Senate Investigation Into Supreme Court Corruption

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DemCast joins more than 60 progressive groups called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate ethics lapses plaguing the Supreme Court in a letter sent on Tuesday.

Groups including Demand Justice, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Organization for Women and Indivisible sent a letter urging the committee to open an investigation into the court’s lack of a binding ethics code. It comes on the heels of allegations that Justice Samuel Alito leaked the outcome of his 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to members of a conservative Christian group that had been waging a pressure campaign targeting the court’s conservatives.

“This is an urgent reminder of the critical need for Supreme Court ethics reform and demands a thorough investigation,” the letter states.

The letter was sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), chairman of the subcommittee overseeing the courts.

The push for a congressional investigation into the court comes after Politico reported in July that Rev. Rob Schenck led a lobbying campaign through his group Faith & Action to steel the spines of conservative justices who were seen as potential votes to overturn Roe v. Wade. As part of the campaign, Faith & Action members gained access to justices, including current Justices Clarence Thomas and Alito and the late Justice Antonin Scalia, through prayer sessions and donations to the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Alito, Thomas and Scalia are all alleged to have accepted food and lodging from Faith & Action members Donald and Gayle Wright.

Read the letter

Chair Dick Durbin
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Chair, Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency
Action, and Federal Rights
Committee on the Judiciary
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairs Durbin and Whitehouse:

We write to urge you to investigate recent reports regarding an alleged ethical violation by Supreme
Court Justice Samuel Alito and a broader effort by the organization Faith and Action to lobby justices
to adopt increasingly conservative positions in pending cases. Reports suggest that, as a result of this
lobbying campaign, Justice Alito met with wealthy political donors and apparently divulged to them
the outcome of a case that was pending before the Court. This is an urgent reminder of the critical
need for Supreme Court ethics reform and demands a thorough investigation.

According to the New York Times, on June 3, 2014, Justice Alito and his wife had dinner with
Don and Gayle Wright, who were large donors to Faith and Action, a conservative non-profit
organization.1 The dinner took place just months after the oral argument in Burwell v. Hobby
Lobby, which Mr. and Mrs. Wright had observed from seats that were reserved for guests of
Justice Alito and late Justice Antonin Scalia. The report details evidence that at the dinner,
Justice Alito apparently disclosed to the Wrights that he was the author of the forthcoming
opinion and that Hobby Lobby would win its case. Mrs. Wright then shared the information with
Rev. Rob Schenck, the founder and leader of Faith and Action, who was able to use the advance
notice to prepare a public relations response to the decision. Justice Alito’s alleged leak of the
outcome of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby calls for a thorough investigation and, if true, constitutes
a shocking betrayal of the Court’s confidences that deserves immediate accountability.

Moreover, this dinner was apparently part of Faith and Action’s broader effort to persuade
justices to adopt more conservative positions in their legal opinions. In fact, reporting from this
summer suggests that Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito all met with representatives of the
organization as part of the lobbying initiative.2 Though the campaign has been ongoing for years,
its impropriety has become much more acute since 2018, when Faith and Action changed its
name to Faith and Liberty and became part of the Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel appears
regularly before the Court and just this year filed an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and directly litigated and won Shurtleff v. City of Boston.

According to a separate report, shortly after the Court issued its Dobbs opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, the
vice president of Faith and Liberty claimed to have prayed with some of the justices inside the
Court building itself.

This lobbying effort by Faith and Action, as well as the apparent acquiescence of Justices Alito,
Thomas and Scalia to it, pose serious ethical concerns and serve as a stark reminder that
Supreme Court justices must be held to account. It is a disservice to the American people that the
justices of our highest Court are not bound by a code of ethics, unlike every other federal judge
in the country. This lack of accountability undoubtedly contributes to the Supreme Court’s
historically low approval ratings and to the American public’s declining faith in the institution.
In a statement following the newest revelations, Chairman Durbin suggested that his Committee
would review the allegations,4 and Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Hank Johnson issued a
joint letter stating that, if the Court “is not willing to undertake fact-finding inquiries into possible
ethics violations that leaves Congress as the only forum.”

We appreciate your immediate attention to the matter, and we strongly urge you to pursue an investigation without delay. The
Supreme Court has repeatedly failed to voluntarily address the very real and understandable
concerns Americans have about its members’ ethical violations, including yet another dismissive
response yesterday.

Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Johnson’s response today, that “The
Court’s letter is an embodiment of the problems at the Court around ethics issues,” underscores
that the Senate Judiciary Committee must step in and investigate the leak allegation made against
Justice Alito, as well as the allegations made against Justices Alito and Thomas of pressure from
outside sources and the inherent conflicts of interest it creates. The Committee’s investigation
should include testimony from the whistleblower in these reports, Rev. Rob Schenck.
Finally, this latest incident serves as a reminder that the Supreme Court increasingly faces a
legitimacy crisis and is in desperate need of ethics reform. If the Court refuses to do it
themselves, then Congress must step in to quickly consider and pass meaningful legislation to
bring accountability and transparency to a Court that has evaded it for far too long.

Congress must respond to the mounting ethical concerns surrounding the Supreme Court,
through both investigation and legislation, without delay.

● Action Together Florida
● Alliance for Justice
● American Atheists
● American Constitution Society
● American Humanist Association
● Americans United for Separation of Church & State
● Baltimore Nonviolence Center
● Be the Change Bmore
● Catholics for Choice
● Cause Communications
● Center for American Progress
● Center for Popular Democracy Action
● Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
● Clean Elections Texas
● Committee for a Fair Judiciary (CFJ)
● Community Change Action
● Demand Justice
● DemCast USA
● Don’t Shop on Tuesday #DSOT
● DoTheMostGood
● End Citizens United / Let America Vote
Action Fund
● Equality California
● For the People — Maryland
● Free Speech For People
● Freedom From Religion Foundation
● Future Coalition
● Get Money Out — Maryland
● Hispanic Federation
● Indivisible
● Indivisible Chicago Alliance
● Indivisible Howard County
● Indivisible Illinois
● Indivisible Marin
● Indivisible Montgomery
● Indivisible Santa Fe
● JustLeadershipUSA
● Lambda Legal
● League of Conservation Voters
● MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund)
● March On
● Maryland Legislative Coalition
● Maryland Poor People’s Campaign
● Maryland WISE Women
● Muslim Advocates
● NARAL Pro-Choice America
● National Center for Transgender Equality
● National Council of Jewish Women
● National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
● National Organization for Women
● National Partnership for Women & Families
● Oregonizers
● Our Revolution Baltimore City/County
● P Street/Progressive Change Institute
● People’s Parity Project
● Planned Parenthood Federation of America
● Population Connection Action Fund
● Reproaction
● Silver State Equality-Nevada
● Stand Up America
● Take Back the Court Action Fund
● The Workers Circle
● True North Research
● Voices for Progress
● We Said Enough

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks, but are sustained solely on donations from grassroots supporters. Because our revenue isn’t click-driven, we don’t take in any direct revenue from the creative contributions of grassroots activists who post on the site. This sets us apart from other media sites. And we’re proud of that.

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