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These Supreme Court justices have run amok, and they need to be checked


supreme court reform, supreme court ethics, theGrio.com
Security works on the steps of the Supreme Court, Friday, June 30, 2023, as decisions are expected in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

President Biden said it himself: “This is not a normal court.” And that characterization, while chaste, is accurate and extends beyond the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on abortion and affirmative action, which reject decades and decades worth of precedent. It also includes the recently uncovered reality that many of the current Supreme Court justices are beholden to extremist Republicans and billionaires who finance their lavish private jet trips to islands and fishing expeditions, who buy their unsellable property, and who pay their country club fees and grandnephew’s tuition.

Nothing about this court is normal, and at this point, the culpable justices have run amok and they’re probably gloating behind closed doors because they will likely remain unchecked.

On Thursday, the president was extremely careful in choosing his words when speaking to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace about how he would describe the current Supreme Court, though his hesitation and body language showed that he fully understands the phrases reporters and fellow Democrats used, likening it to “a rogue” court, and “an undemocratic” court. And considering all that we have learned this term about just how unethical some of the justices have behaved for years, it’s blatantly clear that reform can’t wait.

As a quick recap, according to an April report by ProPublica, Justice Clarence Thomas has been getting “flewed out” like the City Girls and island hopping for the past 20 years on billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crowe’s dime. Crowe also purchased three Georgia properties from Thomas, including his mother’s home where she still resides, and paid Thomas’ grandnephew’s private school tuition.

According to an April report by Politico, merely nine days after Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the highest court in the land, the CEO of one of the largest law firms in the nation purchased a Colorado property that Gosruch had tried and failed to sell for years. It’s all simply a coincidence, according to the CEO, whose firm has had 22 cases before the Supreme Court.

Just this month, ProPublica published a separate report on Justice Samuel Alito’s Alaska fishing trip with billionaire Paul Singer, which featured private jets, $1,000 bottles of wine, and $1,000 per night hotel rooms. The report was so damning that when asked to corroborate the details, Alito attempted to neutralize it with a pre-buttal op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that explained he only rode on the private jet because the seat would have been empty if he hadn’t.

And, of course, we can’t forget the Washington Post report from 2018 about how Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of credit card debt that was included on disclosure forms in 2016 and $92,0000 in country club fees were miraculously paid off just before he was confirmed to his life-long appointment in 2018

supreme court reform, supreme court ethics, theGrio.com
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court. Seated from left: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Standing behind from left: Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Jack Gruber-USA TODAY)

Ethical violation after violation have been enumerated in these reports, and there’s no telling what else these justices have failed to disclose or who else has been financing their lives. But it makes no sense that in 2023 they continue to function above the law, with no accountability and no one to answer to. At this point, they’re flaunting it all in our faces, and that’s why they must be checked with reform, though the hurdles to achieve change are steep. For reform to even be feasible, a filibuster-proof majority in Congress and a president who has the political will and capital to make it so are needed. Sadly, we’ve seen neither of these as of late, even though Democrats had control of Congress and the White House in 2021 and 2022. 

While the president and others recognize that this court is taking the nation down a devastating path, there is inexplicable reticence to act and seriously consider reform beyond a bare minimum commission to study the notion. Reforming the Supreme Court could include expanding the court, setting term limits or even applying a requirement that justices comply with the same ethical standards that all other attorneys and judges must abide by. Thankfully, Congressional Democrats are pushing for the latter, but it’s unclear if that alone will curb the unchecked behavior of these problematic justices and their billionaire “friends.” 

Meanwhile, as the investigative reports uncover more unscrupulous behavior from the justices and the harmful rulings that present and facilitate targeted attacks on Black and brown people, women and pregnant people, LGBTQ+ people and more, it’s no wonder that confidence in the Supreme Court has hit a 50-year low at 26%. The people have lost trust in the Supreme Court, an institution that is critical to our functioning government and democracy, and that alone is a reason to act. Otherwise, we face multiple generations worth of damage.


Juanita Tolliver thegrio.com

Juanita Tolliver is the host of Crooked Media’s “What A Day” Podcast and an MSNBC political analyst.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today! 


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