Senate Democrat calls Supreme Court ‘brazenly corrupt’ as he blasts justices over recent scandals

Democrats have pushed for Supreme Court code of ethics but the issue sees little hope of passage in Washington

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 17 June 2024 00:34 BST
Former Alito neighbour says Supreme Court justice is ‘at worst outright lying’ in his account of upside-down flag fracas

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Louise Thomas

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A Senate Democrat lamented the “brazenly corrupt and brazenly political” Supreme Court even as his party’s leadership says it sees no path to correcting it.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday and reacted to a Senate investigation that found this week that Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the Court’s most conservative members, had neglected to disclose millions of dollars in unreported gifts from a major conservative donor who has worked to get cases before the court.

Murphy told CNN’s Jake Tapper that it was “up to the American people” to elect more Democrats this fall and ensure the president’s party had the numbers required to push for a code of ethics on the Supreme Court or other measures aimed at holding the justices to an ethical standard.

"I think it would be irresponsible for the president not to talk about the fact that this court is becoming brazenly corrupt and brazenly political," Murphy said on CNN. "It's up to the American people this election to do something about that."

Senator Chris Murphy is pictured during a committee hearing. He called the Supreme court “brazenly corrupt” in a recent interview.
Senator Chris Murphy is pictured during a committee hearing. He called the Supreme court “brazenly corrupt” in a recent interview. (Getty Images)

His remarks allude to the fact that Democrats, who control the upper chamber of Congress and the White House, have found themselves politically stymied when it comes to the issue of responding to the cascade of stories that have come out about Supreme Court justices in recent months.

Thomas and a fellow conservative justice, Samuel Alito, are now both known to have spouses personally involved in what appears to be clear political support for the efforts by Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election — even in the days leading up to and after the bloody attack on the Capitol.

Ginny Thomas, wife of Clarence, is known to have personally reached out to state lawmakers in support of the “fake electors” scheme to change the results of the election through the Electoral College.

Alito has been in the spotlight in recent weeks for flying flags outside his homes that are often used by far-right groups. The justice blamed his wife and said it stemmed from a dispute with a neighbor.

Alito has resisted calls for his resignation after the scandal.

But Democrats in the Senate have no clear path to addressing any of this; the justices have repeatedly turned down offers to testify before the Judiciary Commitee, where Democrats say they lack the numbers to issue a subpoena — which would be largely unenforceable, and also would almost certainly fail to pass the full chamber.

Dick Durbin, Democratic chair of the Judiciary Committee, lambasted progressives this week for pressuring him to call for a vote on a subpoena when their party lacks the votes to pass one.

“Quite honestly, subpoenaing a Supreme Court justice is not in the cards,” he told HuffPost on Wednesday. “It’s not going to happen.”

He did note, however, that senators on the committee have issued subpoenas for some of the “sugar daddies” — referring to the wealthy conservative donors who have plied the justices with gifts.

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