Alito Says Congress Lacks Right to Regulate Court

Democrats backing ethics code argue justices have always been subject to legislation
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2023 2:00 PM CDT
Alito Says Congress Lacks Right to Regulate Court
Associate Justice Samuel Alito in October.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Justice Samuel Alito has offered an unsolicited, firm opinion about efforts to impose a code of ethics on him and his colleagues. "Congress did not create the Supreme Court," Alito said. "I know this is a controversial view, but I'm willing to say it. No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court—period." The justice made the comment during an interview that was published in the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal. Some congressional Democrats, who are acting on legislation after revelations of ethic issues among the justices, did not agree with Alito's interpretation.

Rep. Ted Lieu answered that Congress indeed has oversight responsibilities, per the Insider. "You're on the Supreme Court in part because Congress expanded the Court to 9 Justices," Lieu tweeted. "Congress can impeach Justices and can in many cases strip the Court of jurisdiction. Congress has always regulated you and will continue to do so." A spokesperson for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who's working to impose an ethics code, referred to remarks the senator made last week in a hearing justifying oversight, per Politico. "The court's financial disclosure requirements are a law, passed by Congress; its recusal requirements are a law, passed by Congress," Whitehouse said.

The Journal took heat last month for defending Alito in response to a ProPublica ethics investigation that hadn't been published yet. Insider points out that one of the authors of Alito interview published Friday, David B. Rivkin, is a lawyer with a tax case going before the Supreme Court next term—which Rivkin acknowledged parenthetically. Another unusual feature of the interview, the Washington Post points out, is a justice expressing such a definitive view on the constitutionality of legislation that hasn't passed and that could someday be ruled on by the court. (More Samuel A. Alito stories.)

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