The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Democrats, has taken a significant step in its probe into the Supreme Court’s ethics by voting to subpoena two individuals linked to conservative justices.
The vote, which followed three postponements, was split along party lines, with an 11–10 result. This decision came after a contentious two-hour meeting on Nov. 30.
Subpoena Targets: Crow and Leo
The committee authorized subpoenas for Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican donor, and Leonard Leo, a conservative activist and chairman of The Federalist Society.
Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) stated that these individuals had refused to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
Crow is known for his close relationship with Justice Clarence Thomas, providing him with gifts, including vacations.
However, no evidence suggests that these gifts influenced Justice Thomas’s decisions. The committee describes Leo as an “orchestrator of right-wing influence campaigns around the Supreme Court.”
Republican Opposition and Accusations
Republicans on the committee, including ranking member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), accused Democrats of misusing their power to delegitimize the Supreme Court.
“The subpoenas serve no legislative purpose. This is designed to get people they don’t like. They’re using this committee as a political vendetta,” Mr. Graham said.
He also referred to Democrats’ actions as a “jihad” against the court and claimed that they were trying to “destroy Clarence Thomas.”
Ethics and Transparency Act of 2023
The committee’s actions align with its support for the proposed Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act of 2023. This act, criticized by Republicans as unconstitutional, aims to allow public complaints against justices and impose mandatory recusal standards.
Nomination Approvals Amid Disputes
In the same meeting, the committee approved the nominations of Mustafa Taher Kasubhai and Eumi K. Lee to district courts despite Republican opposition and concerns about the nominees’ views and past statements.
Republicans, led by Sen. Graham, expressed frustration over not being allowed to speak on these nominations, with Graham stating, “These two nominees are, like, historically bad.”
Outlook for Full Senate Action
It remains to be seen when the full Senate will consider these nominations. The ongoing partisan tensions indicate a challenging path forward for the committee’s proposals and actions, including the subpoenas and the Supreme Court ethics legislation.
This development in the Senate Judiciary Committee highlights the deepening partisan divide over the Supreme Court’s ethics and the role of political affiliations in judicial matters.
The subpoenas for Crow and Leo, alongside the debate over the nominations and proposed ethics legislation, reflect ongoing conflicts between Democrats and Republicans regarding the judiciary’s independence and integrity.