US Senate Democrats expected to vote on Supreme Court ethics subpoenas

US Senate Democrats expected to vote on Supreme Court ethics subpoenas

US Senate Democrats expected to vote on Supreme Court ethics subpoenas By Reuters

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Published Nov 30, 2023 06:02AM ET
Updated Nov 30, 2023 06:13AM ET

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People visit the U.S. Supreme Court building on the day that Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito released their delayed financial disclosure reports and the reports were made public in Washington, U.S., August 31, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Wur

By John Kruzel and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Democrats are expected on Thursday to vote on authorizing subpoenas to a pair of influential conservatives with ties to the U.S. Supreme Court as part of an ethics inquiry spurred by reports of undisclosed largesse directed to some conservative justices.

The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider subpoenas for billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow, a benefactor of conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, and conservative legal activist Leonard Leo, who was instrumental in compiling Republican former President Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees.

The panel’s meeting comes after the nation’s top judicial body on Nov. 13 adopted a new code of conduct that some of the panel’s Democrats complained lacked any enforcement mechanism.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, the committee’s chairman, has said subpoenas were necessary in light of the refusal by Crow and Leo to voluntarily comply with the panel’s previous requests for information, including itemized lists of all gifts, transportation and lodging provided to any Supreme Court justice.

Democrats are expected to face resistance from the panel’s Republican members, who have painted the oversight effort as an attempt to tarnish the Supreme Court after it handed major defeats to liberals in recent years on matters including abortion, gun rights and student debt relief.

Lawyers for Leo and Crow in letters to the committee criticized the committee’s information requests as lacking a proper legal justification. Crow’s lawyer proposed turning over a narrower range of information but Democrats rebuffed that offer, according to the panel’s Democratic members.

The news outlet ProPublica reported this year on Thomas’s failure to disclose luxury trips and real estate transactions involving Crow, a Texas businessman.

The outlet also reported that Leo helped organize a luxury fishing trip in Alaska attended by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who failed to disclose taking a private jet provided by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer. Trump chose all three of his appointees to the court from lists of candidates that Leo played a key role in drawing up, giving it a 6-3 conservative majority.

Thomas has said he believed the Crow-funded trips were “personal hospitality” and thus exempt from disclosure requirements, and that his omission of the real estate transaction was inadvertent.

Alito, regarding the flight, said that Singer had “allowed me to occupy what would have otherwise been an unoccupied seat.”

US Senate Democrats expected to vote on Supreme Court ethics subpoenas

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