(CBrief) – Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has struck back at Democrats in Congress who are eyeing legislation to reign in the court.
He spoke to The Wall Street Journal weeks after Democrat Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse introduced the legislation to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 20.
The Democrat led Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act (SCERT) of 2023, which Republicans have argued is unconstitutional.
It is not known if or when the legislation would get a vote from the entire Senate, and even if it did the legislation is unlikely to pass the Republican controlled House, which it would need to do before getting to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
The act would require that the Supreme Court would have to create and enforce its own code of ethics that would include Justices being mandated to recuse themselves from certain cases, which is currently something they decide on their own.
It would also mandate that the Justices disclose gifts, paid travel, and income information.
The legislation, if passed, would allow members of the public to file complaints against individual justices which would be arbitrated by a five judge panel from lower courts.
It would allow any citizen to file a motion to have a Justice removed from a case.
The Supreme Court is “the only court in the country, perhaps the only court in the world, with no ethics process at all,” Democrat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said at a committee hearing on July 20 when he introduced the legislation.
“Then came the news that six politically active right wing-billionaires have been paying household expenses, engaging in financial transactions, and providing massive secret gifts of travel and hospitality for at least two justices,” the senator said.
“We are here because the highest court in the land has the lowest standard of ethics anywhere in the federal government. And justices have exhibited much improper behavior, not least in hapless efforts to excuse the misdeeds,” he said.
In his interview with The Journal, Justice Alito hit back at the court’s critics and at the idea that Congress could, or should, have oversight.
“Congress did not create the Supreme Court”—the Constitution did, the Justice said.
“I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it,” he said. “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court—period.”
He was referring to Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution, that says: “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
Republicans have said that the provision gives Congress the authority to regulate lower courts and even abolish them but have no such authority when it comes to the Supreme Court.
And if there was a dispute about this the only branch that court arbitrate that would be the judicial branch which would ultimately lead to the Supreme Court deciding the matter.
“I don’t know that any of my colleagues have spoken about it publicly, so I don’t think I should say. But I think it is something we have all thought about,” he said.
“I marvel at all the nonsense that has been written about me in the last year,” the Justice said.
When faced with political attacks, “the traditional idea about how judges and justices should behave is they should be mute” and that others, especially “the organized bar,” should defend them.
“But that’s just not happening. And so at a certain point I’ve said to myself, nobody else is going to do this, so I have to defend myself,” he said.