Statement on the SCOTUS Ethics Hearing in Senate Judiciary
Fix the Court’s Gabe Roth released this statement:
I had hoped that the hearing was going to focus on proposals for fixing the lack of ethics and accountability at the Supreme Court. Stronger gift and travel rules. Further reductions in the personal hospitality loopholes. Requiring greater detail on perks, transactions and outside income.
But instead we were treated to the unwillingness on the part of several Committee members to acknowledge the egregiousness of Justice Thomas’ ethics violations — yes, every justice has committed lapses, but Thomas’ are far more egregious — along with some feigned separation-of-powers concerns when, just a year ago, the Senate unanimously passed a bill requiring stronger disclosure rules for the justices for which no such concerns were raised.
What might be worse: one of the witnesses implied that a section of the Ethics in Government Act was unlawful. Judge Mukasey told the Committee: ‘The one feature [of the Act] that was alluded to before, about the attorney general making a determination of willfulness (5 U.S.C. 13106). I don’t know that that’s ever been litigated. And if it were ever litigated as to a Supreme Court justice, I believe it would be found to be unconstitutional.’
This to me gives away the whole game. Why should the justices comply with the financial disclosure law, Mukasey appears to be saying, if, push comes to shove, the Court will simply strike it down?
Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that on proposals to reduce the Court’s budget until the nine impose stronger ethics and disclosure rules upon themselves, the Court’s FY24 budget request is roughly $151 million. The proposed non-security budget is tens of millions of dollars, including for “other services,” $24.6 million; “equipment,” $10.8 million, “supplies and materials,” $2.7 million and “travel,” $2.1 million.
So of course the appropriations process will in no way imperil funding for judicial security. It’s a shame that more lawmakers didn’t care as much about SCOTUS security a few years back when FTC pointed out several threats we had uncovered.