Senate Democrats to Vote on Subpoenas for Supreme Court Ethics Probe

Senate Democrats are scheduled to vote on Thursday to authorize subpoenas for two prominent conservatives linked to the U.S. Supreme Court amid an ethics investigation sparked by reports of undisclosed gifts given to conservative justices.

The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee is planning a hearing to consider subpoenas for billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow, who is connected to conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as conservative legal activist Leonard Leo. Both individuals have ties to compiling former President Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees.

Committee Chairman Dick Durbin stated that the subpoenas are necessary due to Crow and Leo’s refusal to voluntarily comply with the panel’s previous requests for information about gifts, transportation, and lodging provided to any Supreme Court justice.

According to Durbin, the information is crucial to understanding how individuals and groups with business before the court gain private access to the justices. Lawyers for Crow and Leo have criticized the requests as lacking legal justification.

The committee also dropped its plan to subpoena Robin Arkley II after the conservative donor provided withheld information to the committee.

However, Democrats are expected to face resistance from the panel’s Republican members, who have portrayed the oversight as an attempt to tarnish the Supreme Court after it handed major defeats to liberals in recent years on issues such as abortion, gun rights, and student debt relief.

In a report by ProPublica, it was found that Thomas failed to disclose luxury trips and real estate transactions involving Crow, while Leo organized a fishing trip attended by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who did not disclose taking a private jet provided by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer. Thomas claimed the Crow-funded trips were “personal hospitality” exempt from disclosure requirements, and Alito stated that Singer allowed him to occupy an unoccupied seat on the private jet.

Unlike other federal judges, the life-tenured Supreme Court justices have no binding code of conduct, though they are subject to certain financial disclosure laws. The Senate Judiciary Committee had previously approved a Democratic-backed bill in July that would require a binding ethics code for the justices, but the bill faces opposition from Republicans.

This news release was reported by John Kruzel and additional reporting was done by Nate Raymond in Boston.


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