Justice Samuel Alito said “no provision” of the Constitution allows Congress to regulate the Supreme Court in a Wall Street Journal interview published Friday.
Alito’s comments come in the face of Democrats’ escalating efforts to impose a code of ethics on the Supreme Court following reports alleging justices violated ethics rules, which Republicans have sharply criticized as an effort to delegitimize and intimidate the Supreme Court. Just last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Supreme Court ethics legislation to the full senate.
Whitehouse’s Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act would require the justices to adopt a code of ethics, increase disclosure and recusal requirements and establish a process for reviewing and investigating complaints made against justices.
“Congress did not create the Supreme Court,” Alito told the WSJ, noting it was the Constitution that did. “I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it.”
“No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period,” he continued. Alito told the WSJ he still voluntarily follows disclosure statutes that apply to officials in the executive branch and lower-court judges.
Alito didn’t say whether his colleagues agree but noted it is “something we have all thought about.”
“I don’t know that any of my colleagues have spoken about it publicly, so I don’t think I should say,” he said.
In April, Chief Justice John Roberts declined Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin’s invitation to speak on the Supreme Court’s ethical standards before the committee, citing “separation of powers concerns” and that it is “exceedingly rare” for a chief justice to testify.
Roberts included with his letter to Durbin a statement signed by all nine justices clarifying the Supreme Court’s ethics principles. The statement says the Supreme Court voluntarily adopted a resolution to follow Judicial Conference Regulations for the lower courts in 1991, including its financial disclosure requirements.
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