House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (DN.Y.) said revelations in news outlets, including POLITICO, of a lobbying campaign targeting judges cast doubt on how the Supreme Court arrived at its groundbreaking decision in June that struck down the federal constitutional right to abortion.
“We now wonder to what extent this decision ending decades of established precedent was influenced by wealthy organized donors and lobbying to move conservative justices to the right,” Nadler said.
Nadler and other Democratic members said Schenck’s account underscores the need to pass legislation imposing a binding code of ethics on the Supreme Court.
“Supreme Court justices cannot control their own ethics themselves, and we should not expect them to do so,” Nadler said.
Schenck said his efforts to try to bond with Tory judges through meals and to put them up in private homes took advantage of the High Court’s lax ethics rules.
“There were clear rules in place limiting how one could interact with the representative branches…none of that applied to the Supreme Court,” Schenck said. “We knew there was a lot of freedom and leeway there and made our operation at the judicial branch, at that level, much easier.
However, a lawyer and former Supreme Court clerk called as a GOP witness, Mark Paoletta, called Schenck a “crook” and argued that he should not be trusted because of his public admission that he had sometimes lied during his lobbying campaign.
“Schenck’s whole project was a scam and had no impact on justice,” Paoletta said.
Paoletta, who worked on the Senate confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas and represented his wife, Virginia Thomas, in the House committee investigation on Jan. 6, said it was absurd to think that judges like Thomas or Samuel Alito would be susceptible to pressure. be more conservative on issues like abortion rights.
“You smear the court and encourage the public to question the court and its decisions,” Paoletta added. “This political assault on the pitch is a dangerous game.”
No one from the Supreme Court testified at Thursday’s hearing, but the court released statements disputing many of Schenck’s allegations. The court did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the hearing and a claim that it had been asked “repeatedly” to send a witness, but did not.
Schenck also claimed that in 2014 he learned of the outcome of a highly watched Supreme Court case regarding the rights of businesses with religious owners to avoid providing contraceptive coverage under Obamacare, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Schenck says that about three weeks before the ruling was released, he learned that Alito was writing the notice and that religious business owners had prevailed.
Schenck said the generally confidential information came from Gayle Wright, following a dinner she and her husband had at Alito’s in Alexandria, Virginia. Wright denied Schenck’s account. Alito released a statement last month saying that neither he nor his wife had disclosed the outcome or authorship of the case. hobby hall decision before publication.
Republican lawmakers have sought to undermine Schenck, accusing him of dishonesty and citing his admission that he spread “consecutive lies” before breaking with the religious right several years ago.
“I look back and realize that a lot of things I enacted were not true,” he conceded on Thursday. “I didn’t know that at the time.”
Republican House members have faulted fellow Democrats for drawing attention to the alleged 2014 leak, without calling a hearing to explore how POLITICO obtained a draft opinion in the major abortion case that the High Court delivered in June. Alito is also the author of this decision, considered a historic victory for the conservatives.
“You didn’t hold a hearing on this,” complained Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona).
“No one hears about the real leak, but we have a fake leak hearing here,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said.
Jordan also noted that POLITICO recently reported that after months of investigation it “was unable to locate anyone who heard of the hobby hall decision directly from Alito or his wife before his release at the end of June 2014.”
Jordan read this part of the article aloud twice for emphasis, although he omitted the word “directly” in both cases. Biggs then read the passage in its entirety.
Despite heated exchanges between Democratic and GOP lawmakers, members of both parties said they favored requiring a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.
“If you can buy the Supreme Court … the left will be much better than us,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said.
Paoletta accused Democrats of “gaslighting” because they didn’t show much interest in ethical practices when Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s husband continued to practice law after being sworn in court.
However, Rep. Val Demings (D-Florida) said that was no reason not to move forward with legislation to impose a code of ethics on the High Court.
“We are talking about it now. Sometimes we are late,” she said.