Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth released the following statement in light of ProPublica’s recent report on Justice Alito’s previously unreported luxury trip to Alaska:
“The public should expect Supreme Court justices of all people to be ethical exemplars, yet the nine have consistently been shown to be deficient in this regard.
“Case in point: whether they’re headed to Alaska, Indonesia or Nantucket, the justices like other public servants should not be flying there on private planes, especially when they, through their rulings, have the power to substantially impact the fortunes of their hosts.
Like Justice Thomas, Justice Alito — and, frankly, the whole Court — should spend the summer going back through old disclosure reports and filing amendments reflecting when free jet travel or resort stays were accepted. It’s the bare minimum fix here.
“All that said, I want to focus on Justice Alito’s cringey (‘Disclose Report,’ graf 1), not fact-checked (deputy marshals’ responsibilities don’t change based on mode of transportation, last graf) op-ed running in today’s Wall Street Journal, which I believe to be a net positive for a few reasons.
“First, you don’t see Supreme Court justices writing op-eds all that often, right? Politicians write them fairly frequently, of course, but the thing is, the justices have been acting like politicians since the start of the Republic, even more so in recent years, so Alito’s missive might help more Americans finally realize this.
“Second, the justices should be more forthcoming about their reasons for recusing or for not recusing from cases, so when a justice gives a ridiculous response when confronted with a series of missed recusals — the ‘reasonable person’ standard absolutely calls for Alito’s disqualification given the timing of the Alaska trip and the various Argentina debt petitions — lawmakers can respond accordingly.
“In fact, Senate Democrats in February reintroduced legislation where a justice’s receipt of a gift would start a six-year clock during which the justice couldn’t sit on a case involving the gift-giver. (To be fair, I’d like a clarification where ‘affiliate’ in Section 4 of the proposal more directly includes the head of a company with a petition before the Court, but that’s an easy fix.)
“Finally, it’s very on brand at the country’s least accountable institution that a so-called textualist who hasn’t yet filed his most recent disclosure is spending his time locating a dictionary (published by a major SCOTUS benefactor) that conforms to his twisted reading of the disclosure law and not doing the work to update his older reports to include the lavish gifts — or file his 2022 report.
“What a sad state of affairs.”