Top Democrat Clashes with Justice Alito Over Supreme Court Oversight

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( – Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is butting heads with conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito over a bill Democrats are working on in the senate that would impose new ethics rules on Supreme Court Justices.

In a lengthy interview with the Wall Street Journal that discusses, among other things, the different approaches to jurisprudence of his colleagues in the Supreme Court, Alito spoke on the senate bill, Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act, which was put forward by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

“Congress did not create the Supreme Court,” Alito stated, noting that it was the U.S. Constitution that did. And that being said, Alito asserted that there was “no provision in the Constitution” that granted the Senate or any in the legislature to regulate the Supreme Court, “period.”

These statements infuriated Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a statement, Durbin said that the Supreme Court justice’s remarks were “unwise and unwelcome,” adding that Alito is “not the 101st member of the United States Senate.” The Senate justice committee chair also said the comments were “speculative public commentary” which he felt was uncalled for given that the bill is still “going through the legislative process.”

The clash between these two branches of government comes at the heels of investigative reports that revealed Justice Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas – who both happen to be members of the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority – took lavish trips with major GOP donors. ProPublica released a report recently saying that Alito went on a fishing trip with billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer in 2008, complete with transportation via private jet, and a stay at a posh fishing lodge that charged $1,000 a day. The publication estimated the trip to cost at least $100,000, and said that Alito did not report the trip in his annual financial disclosures.

The supreme court justice fired back at ProPublica in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, accusing the publication of “misleading its readers,” reasoning that the trip was more incidental and that he only accompanied Singer on the jet on a seat the “would have otherwise been vacant” if he decided not to come. He also noted that the lodge was “modest” during his stay and has since been renovated, and that ProPublica’s basis for the cost of his stay reflects the state of the new facilities, not the old. As for cases allegedly involving Singer where the publication implies that Alito should have recused, the SC justice said that even if were aware of Singer’s connection to the cases ProPublica cites, “recusal would not have been required or appropriate.”

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