Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) blasted conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Sunday for claiming that Congress has no authority to create a code of conduct for the high court, which has been embroiled in ethics controversies.
Senate Democrats have been considering implementing a code of conduct to hold the court to higher ethics standards, as is done for the congressional and executive branches of the federal government. But on Friday, Alito told The Wall Street Journal that lawmakers should stop trying to impose new rules on the justices.
“No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court ? period,” Alito said of the lawmakers. He added that “the organized bar” of lawyers would normally defend the court against its critics, but that has not lately been the case, so “I have to defend myself.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Murphy said that Alito’s claim is “just stunningly wrong.”
“He should know that more than anyone else, because his seat on the Supreme Court exists only because of an act passed by Congress,” Murphy said. “It is Congress that establishes the number of justices on the Supreme Court. It is Congress that has passed, in the past, requirements for justices to disclose certain information.”
“And so it is just wrong on the facts to say that Congress doesn’t have anything to do with the rules guiding the Supreme Court,” he went on. “In fact, from the very beginning, Congress has set those rules.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee on July 20 approved a bill by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a staunch critic of the high court. The bill would require the Supreme Court to adopt a code of conduct and create a process to probe potential violations.
The bill follows a string of ethics controversies involving various Supreme Court justices, including Alito, who authored the court’s opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Alito and his fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas are accused of failing to report lavish gifts on federal disclosure forms.
Earlier this year, ProPublica reported that Thomas specifically accepted trips and gifts from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. The investigative outlet also reported that Alito failed to disclose a gifted luxury trip and private jet travel ? but before that story was even released, Alito penned an op-ed in the Journal defending himself against ProPublica’s claims.
“It is even more disturbing that Alito feels the need to insert himself into a congressional debate,” Murphy said Sunday. “And it is just more evidence that these justices on the Supreme Court, these conservative justices, just see themselves as politicians. They just see themselves as a second legislative body that has just as much power and right to impose their political will on the country as Congress does.”
“They are going to bend the law in order to impose their right-wing view of how the country should work on the rest of us,” he continued. “And it’s why we need to pass this commonsense ethics legislation, to at least make sure we know that these guys aren’t in bed having their lifestyles paid for by conservative donors ? as we have unfortunately seen in these latest revelations.”