Durbin Invites John Roberts To Sen Ethics Hearing In Wake Of Dem Calls To Impeach Thomas

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) speaks to reporters outside of the Senate Chambers in the U.S. Capitol Building on March 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. Senators return to session th... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) speaks to reporters outside of the Senate Chambers in the U.S. Capitol Building on March 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. Senators return to session this week amidst the government reaction to the closing of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) has invited Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts—or any other justice he designates—to testify at an upcoming committee hearing on ethics reform, in the wake of recent revelations about a billionaire GOP mega-donor’s friendship with one of his colleagues.

The Illinois Democrat sent Roberts a letter on Thursday requesting his appearance at a hearing set for May 2. “The time has come for a new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court’s ethical standards,” he wrote.

In the letter, Durbin points out that there’s precedent for a sitting justice to speak before a Senate panel: Former Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer testified before the Judiciary Committee about the high court’s ethical standards in the fall of 2011.

Back then, as now, Justice Clarence Thomas had become embroiled in a scandal based on his friendship with billionaire Harlan Crow, a Texan real estate magnate who’s donated millions of dollars to conservative causes. Thomas was chastised for appearing at events by Republican-backed groups and accepting favors from Crow back then; today, he’s fallen under similar scrutiny after ProPublica revealed that he’d accepted luxury trips and lucrative real estate deals from the mega-donor.

“These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the Court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence,” Durbin wrote. “The status quo is no longer tenable.” 

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), a member of the judiciary panel in the House, joined progressive lawmakers on Tuesday in demanding that Thomas be impeached. That same day, Durbin called for a hearing on ethics reform. “Judges and justices are entrusted by the American people to serve the public interest and administer equal justice under the law,” he said in a statement that day. “That’s why taxpayers, not billionaire donors, fund judicial salaries, courthouses, and operations.”

He noted that there’s also precedent for Congress to intervene in the federal judiciary’s affairs, such as the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act from last summer which expanded public access to reports filed by judges.

“But the Supreme Court doesn’t need to wait on Congress to clean up its act,” he said. “The justices could take action today if they wanted to. And if the Court fails to act, Congress must.”

Read the full letter below:

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Notable Replies

  1. Durbin Invites John Roberts To Sen Ethics Hearing…

    Roberts, to Durbin: “Will you pay for my travel to the hearing on a private plane?”

  2. Is Roberts currently chilling on Crow’s yacht? Otherwise, it seems like it would be an extremely short flight. There probably isn’t enough room for even a small plane to taxi, take off and land between the Court House and the Capitol Building.

  3. Of course Roberts will not show up least he is asked about the millions his wife made placing lawyers in firms that support Republican and far right causes before the “Roberts’ court”.

    1. No, the yacht party doesn’t start until after midnight tomorrow when they ban Minestrone (sp?)

    2. Private helicopter.

  4. Why not call on Thomas to appear? Let’s go right to the source.

    That said, this is pretty much the standing MO for Durbin. He and Duckworth (both my senators) reliably vote Democratic, but that’s as far as it goes.

    When I wrote him about Thomas, all I received was a mealy-mouthed response about how important SCOTUS is, the need for ethics, etc and the promise of a sternly-worded letter to Roberts.

    So sick of Dems who don’t even try (we’ll never get an impeachment, etc.). The point is to fight for our civic democracy, not senate congeniality.

    Durbin and Duckworth both need to retire.

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