Press Releases

Keeping Up with the Court’s Corruption

Jul 19, 2023

Tomorrow, the Senate will hold a markup of the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act—legislation that will force the Supreme Court to adopt and implement a strong code of accountability and transparency. Since the justices can’t seem to say no to luxury vacations or special gifts from billionaires, keeping up with the Court’s ethical mishaps can be overwhelming. But we’re here to help.

Below is a timeline of some recent corruption scandals that have been brought to light:

  • Rolling Stone, 03/27/22: The Supreme Court’s Clarence and Ginni Thomas Scandal Is Unprecedented

    • “By a vote of 8-1, with Justice Clarence Thomas as the lone dissenter, the court refused a request by former President Donald Trump to block congressional investigators from gaining access to messages that Trump claimed were still covered by executive privilege. Those messages, between and among Trump administration officials during their final days in office, shed needed light on the origins of the Trump-fueled U.S. Capitol riot and insurrection, which had taken place one year earlier in Washington, D.C.”

  • ProPublica, 04/06/23: Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire

    • “For more than two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury trips virtually every year from the Dallas businessman without disclosing them, documents and interviews show…The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court. These trips appeared nowhere on Thomas’ financial disclosures. His failure to report the flights appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts, two ethics law experts said. He also should have disclosed his trips on the yacht, these experts said.”

  • Slate, 05/30/23: It Took Alito Barely a Month to Violate the Supreme Court’s New Ethics Rules

    • “In Philips 66, it appears that Alito should have cited his “financial interest” in a party to explain his “recusal decision.” (In other words, he should have been “Justice X.”) This could have been a textbook example of the new rule in action; indeed, it was literally the example that the court offered the Senate Judiciary Committee. Instead, Alito refused to adhere to this new procedure.”

  • ProPublica, 06/20/23: Justice Samuel Alito Took Luxury Fishing Vacation With GOP Billionaire Who Later Had Cases Before the Court

    • “Singer was more than a fellow angler. He flew Alito to Alaska on a private jet. If the justice chartered the plane himself, the cost could have exceeded $100,000 one way. In the years that followed, Singer’s hedge fund came before the court at least 10 times in cases where his role was often covered by the legal press and mainstream media. In 2014, the court agreed to resolve a key issue in a decade-long battle between Singer’s hedge fund and the nation of Argentina. Alito did not recuse himself from the case and voted with the 7-1 majority in Singer’s favor.”

  • New York Times, 07/09/23: Where Clarence Thomas Entered an Elite Circle and Opened a Door to the Court

    • “At Horatio Alger, [Thomas] moved into the inner circle, a cluster of extraordinarily wealthy, largely conservative members who lionized him and all that he had achieved…He has granted it unusual access to the Supreme Court, where every year he presides over the group’s signature event: a ceremony in the courtroom at which he places Horatio Alger medals around the necks of new lifetime members. One entrepreneur called it ‘the closest thing to being knighted in the United States.’”

  • New York Times, 07/14/23: A Federal Judge Asks: Does the Supreme Court Realize How Bad It Smells?

    • “The Supreme Court has avoided imposing a formal ethical apparatus on itself like the one that applies to all other federal judges. I understand the general concern, in part. A complaint mechanism could become a political tool to paralyze the court or a playground for gadflies. However, a skillfully drafted code could overcome this problem. Even a nonenforceable code that the justices formally pledged to respect would be an improvement on the current void.”