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On Subpoenas, Durbin Had No Choice

FTC’s Gabe Roth released this statement following news that Senate Judiciary Democrats plan to vote on issuing subpoenas to Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo and Robin Arkley II:

“Justices Thomas’ and Justice Alito’s patrons have had ample opportunity to come clean and offer a full accounting of the largesse they’ve provided. But after months of the benefactors’ obstruction, Chairman Durbin had no alternative but to call for a vote authorizing subpoenas.

“Information obtained via subpoena will fill in some key blanks on the justices’ past disclosure reports, which still contain glaring omissions in violation of federal law. It will be useful for revealing the depths of the ethics scandal the Court now finds itself in and for crafting laws aimed at reducing corrupting influences in and around the institution.

“I applaud Senate Democrats for their continuing efforts to hold the Court accountable, and I look forward to more where this came from.”

Additional information:
Senate Judiciary Democrats in July advanced the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act (S. 359), which would require the creation of a SCOTUS ethics code and greater disclosure of gifts and trips, along with a process for dealing with alleged misconduct.

That said, the bill could always change before it’s voted on by the full Senate, and additional bills on judicial ethics could be proposed (gift ban anyone?), so the “valid legislative purpose” box has been amply checked.

Detractors may say that Democrats’ efforts are unconstitutional, and yet Republicans themselves in the last few years have introduced or proposed legislation that would require a SCOTUS ethics code, create stronger gift and travel rules and establish the office of a Judiciary Inspector General who’d investigate”alleged misconduct in the United States Supreme Court that may require oversight or other action within the judicial branch or by Congress.

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