House Democrats press Roberts to investigate Supreme Court ethics issues

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are asking whether Chief Justice John Roberts has taken any action to investigate conflicts of interest concerning two fellow Supreme Court justices.

A letter from the Oversight Democrats on Thursday addresses both lavish trips and other undisclosed gifts given to Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as reports detailing the displaying of two flags associated with the “Stop the Steal” effort at Justice Samuel Alito’s homes.

The lawmakers credit both journalists and congressional committees with unearthing details that have revealed an ethics crisis at the court. Roberts, meanwhile, has refused a request to meet with lawmakers.

“This anomalous way of keeping track of ethical transgressions at the Court raises the question of whether the Supreme Court is unable, or perhaps just unwilling, to investigate and police its own conduct to ensure that Justices comply with their statutory and constitutional obligations,” Raskin and Ocasio-Cortez wrote to Roberts.

“Since you have refused to meet with Congress, we question what steps you are actually taking as either the Chief Justice or the presiding officer of the Judicial Conference to investigate these glaring episodes of political bias and lack of disclosure.”

The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee recently released documents indicating Thomas failed to disclose three additional trips he took that were paid for by GOP mega-donor Harlan Crow.

And House Judiciary Democrats have called on Roberts to press Alito to recuse himself from some cases, saying that by displaying the flags, he violated one provision that bars justices from endorsing a candidate for office and another that requires recusal when their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Alito has said his wife was responsible for the flags, telling Congress last month he had nothing to do with the flags flying over his two homes.

While Thomas has rescued himself from a case concerning John Eastman, an attorney who helped craft former President Trump’s false elector scheme, neither justice has recused themselves from either pending case concerning Jan. 6.

“The Justices’ dogged refusal to recuse increasingly untenable,” the Oversight lawmakers wrote.

“Justice Alito’s and Justice Thomas’s transparently partisan ideological activity calls into question their impartiality with regard to matters currently pending before the Supreme Court. We understand that both Justices have refused to recuse themselves from these matter. However, enforcement of the Court’s Code of Conduct, as well as the constitutional and statutory guarantees that cases will be heard by unbiased judges, cannot rest on a Justice’s introspection and subjective evaluation of his own conduct.”

The letter asks Roberts to answer a series of questions about actions the court may have taken in the wake of reporting about both justices. It also notes the investigation conducted by the Supreme Court after the release of the draft of the Dobbs opinion that overturned the federal right to an abortion.

“We know that the Supreme Court is capable of conducting a comprehensive factual investigation,” Raskin and Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

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