Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is running for president in 2024, said Democrats and their allies on the left are trying to “bully” conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas because they are angry over the court’s ideological balance.
Pence made his comments in response to reports by ProPublica that Alito and Thomas failed to disclose private plane trips and luxury vacations paid for by wealthy conservative donors, which Democrats say is a violation of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act.
“I have immense respect for Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito and I take them at their word that they acted in a proper and in an upright way,” he said, when asked if the Supreme should adopt an enforceable code of ethics.
“I just can’t help but believe that what we’re seeing here is politics. ProPublica, left-wing organizations I think will never forgive our administration appointing three pro-life justices to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Pence said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” that is scheduled to air this weekend. “And so I think now having lost in the ballot box, they’re back to trying to bully the Supreme Court when, as you know, other justices who have been appointed by Democrat presidents have had some of the same issues come up, they’re never been raised,” he said.
Former President Trump appointed three conservative justices to the high court, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, giving it a 6-3 conservative majority.
Brian Fallon, the cofounder and executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive group that describes itself as committed to restoring the ideological balance of the courts, said that while liberal justices have attended conferences, they haven’t gone on luxurious fishing and yachting trips with liberal megadonors.
Fallon argued that the problems with the Supreme Court’s ethics procedures is that they leave it entirely to the justices themselves to police their own conduct.
“Because it’s in the eye-of-the-beholder type test that is set up in the law, Alito gets to argue this complete bad-faith interpretation of the reasonable interpretation test,” he said. “Who’s going to be the adjudicator of whether his interpretation doesn’t fly. There’s no authority that gets to say that Alito’s interpretation of the reasonable person test is beyond reasonableness.”
In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Alito argued that he didn’t need to recuse himself from a case in which the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 in favor of Paul Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who paid for Alito’s private plane trip to a fishing lodge in Alaska.
He claimed that no reasonable person would think he had to recuse himself from the case, which resulted in Singer getting a $2.4 billion payout, because he was unaware of Singer’s connection to the entities involved in the case.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the chairman of the Federal Courts and Oversight Subcommittee, announced Wednesday they will mark up Supreme Court ethics legislation after July 4 if the high court itself doesn’t take action.
“The highest court in the land should not have the lowest ethical standards. But for too long that has been the case with the United States Supreme Court. That needs to change,” the senators said in a joint statement. “That’s why when the Senate returns after the July 4th recess, the Senate Judiciary Committee will mark up Supreme Court ethics legislation.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has called on Congress to “stay out” of the court’s business.
“Look, the Supreme Court in my view can’t be dictated to by Congress. I think the chief justice will address these issues,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday. “Congress should stay out of it because we don’t, I think, have the jurisdiction to tell the Supreme Court how to handle the issue.”