Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s recent comments have ignited a fierce debate between him and Democratic senators over the issue of imposing ethics rules on the nation’s highest court.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Justice Alito firmly stated that Congress lacks the constitutional authority to regulate the Supreme Court’s ethics, asserting, “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court – period.”
Spurred by concerns over questionable ethical decisions and transparency within the court, Senate Democrats have been pushing for legislation to establish a binding ethical code for justices and clerks. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of the bill has set the stage for a contentious showdown in the Senate.
“I marvel at all the nonsense that has been written about me in the last year,” Justice Alito expressed his frustration, adding, “I have to defend myself.” He also warned that if the court is perceived as illegitimate, it could lead to disregard for its decisions, drawing parallels to the massive resistance witnessed in the South after major civil rights cases.
Democrats argue that Congress has the authority to oversee the high court, and Chief Justice John Roberts has previously raised doubts about Congress’s power to regulate the court’s conduct and its justices. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse remarked, “The court’s financial disclosure requirements are a law, passed by Congress… Please let’s not pretend Congress can’t make amendments to laws Congress has passed or oversee agencies Congress has created.”
Republicans have denounced the ethics proposals, viewing them as a transparent bid to weaken the court’s conservative majority. With the legislation facing opposition from Republicans and slim chances of surviving a filibuster in the Senate, its future remains uncertain.
The clash between Justice Alito and Democratic senators has deepened the partisan divisions on Capitol Hill, adding to the already polarised political landscape.