Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is demanding that Chief Justice John Roberts take action over an unusual interview conservative Justice Samuel Alito gave in which he questioned whether Congress has the power to impose ethics rules on the Supreme Court.
Whitehouse’s complaint, submitted Monday, focuses on a July 28 interview published by The Wall Street Journal, conducted in part by conservative lawyer David Rivkin, in the wake of recent news articles raising questions about Supreme Court ethics.
“No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period,” Alito said in relation to the power of Congress on the issue.
Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, said in his letter that Alito’s comments have bearing on legislation he has sponsored that would impose an ethics code. Whitehouse wrote the letter to Roberts in part to highlight how the Supreme Court does not have a formal mechanism for handling ethics complaints.
Alito’s comments violate the code of conduct that lower court judges follow in part because he gave an opinion on a legal issue that might come before the court, Whitehouse said. Justices have in the past said that although the code of conduct does not specifically apply to the Supreme Court, they use it as a reference on ethics issues.
“Making public comments assessing the merits of a legal issue that could come before the Court undoubtedly creates the very appearance of impropriety these rules are meant to protect against,” Whitehouse said in the letter. [Continue reading…]