Corruption crisis reaches fever pitch with new revelations, highlighting need for reform
Today, new reporting from CNN uncovered the latest shady Supreme Court dealings, this time involving Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett. The new revelations — following news of Alito’s unreported Leo-organized luxury fishing trip with conservative billionaire Paul Singer — reveal the ethically questionable perks enabled by the lack of a Supreme Court ethics code, adding to the corruption crisis which has now reached a fever pitch.
The endless drip of shady and corrupt Supreme Court dealings just further underscores the need for reform. Every federal judge is bound to an ethics code requiring them to avoid behavior that so much as looks improper, except for Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice Roberts has the power to change that, but so far he hasn’t shown the courage. If he fails to do his job, Congress must do theirs.”
Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig.
Alito was honored in Rome last summer by Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Initiative, a group which has filed a series of “friend-of-the-court” briefs in religious liberty cases since its founding in 2020 — and has recently curried favor with the conservative Court. After the Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the group bankrolled Alito’s trip to Rome to deliver a keynote address at a gala hosted at a palace in the heart of the city, his first known public appearance after the decision.
Alito ruled in favor of the Religious Liberty Initiative’s position in several of the cases for which it submitted briefs, including the one that reversed Roe, which he authored, and a 2022 decision that said a high school football coach had the right to pray on the 50-yard line after games.
Amy Coney Barrett also has ties to the Religious Liberty Initiative. Just months after she was sworn in at the Supreme Court, she sold her private residence to a recently-hired Notre Dame professor taking on a leadership position at the initiative, Accountable.US research found.
The initiative and lawyers associated with it have filed at least nine amicus briefs before the Supreme Court in the time since the sale, supporting positions in favor of conservative rulings on issues like abortion, school prayer, and coronavirus restrictions.
“It raises a question – not so much of corruption as such, but of whether disclosures, our current system of disclosures, is adequate to the task,” said Kathleen Clark, a Washington University in St. Louis Law School professor who specializes in government ethics, of Barrett’s real estate transaction.
…Some experts said the sale is yet another reason why some rules at the Supreme Court should be changed to provide the public with a more robust understanding of connections between the justices and those involved in legal advocacy before the nation’s highest court.
“The court, frankly, it faces a kind of legitimacy crisis because of the really dire weaknesses of its ethics,” Clark said. “It has the opportunity to address that legitimacy crisis by, you know, stepping up its ethics game – imposing on itself and then abiding by additional disclosure operations.”
Charles Geyh, a law professor at Indiana University and a legal ethics expert, stressed that although Barrett’s home sale did not violate any rules, it presents a “perception problem” for a court already facing intense public scrutiny.
“It is addressed by the court being much more vigilant in guarding against perception problems created by (the justices’) financial wheelings and dealings and going the extra mile to make sure that they not only are clean, but look clean,” he said.