What’s Happening Tuesday on Capitol Hill?
May 2, 2023
All eyes will be on the Supreme Court today — sort of — on this the first anniversary of Politico publishing the leaked draft majority opinion in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and voided the long-standing belief that women had a constitutionally granted privacy right to abortion.
This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee will convene in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building for a hearing on the need for ethics reform on the high court.
The hearing followed a report that initially appeared in ProPublica that Justice Clarence Thomas accepted luxury trips involving private planes and yachts from billionaire Harlan Crow without disclosing them, and that Justice Neil Gorsuch did not disclose the purchase of a Colorado property he owned by the head of law firm Greenberg Traurig, which handles cases before the court.
The outing of messy affairs at the court continued last Friday, when Business Insider reported whistleblower claims that Jane Sullivan Roberts, the wife of Chief Justice John Roberts, was paid $10.3 million in commission between 2007 and 2014 from her job as a headhunter for the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa.
In that role, which began two years after Roberts joined the court, Jane Roberts placed attorneys at several firms, including at least one that argued a case before the Supreme Court after the placement was made.
On Sunday came another blast at the court — this one a lengthy investigative piece by The New York Times that explored the relationship between George Mason University’s Scalia Law School and certain justices, including Thomas, Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Democrats in the Senate and several legal advocacy groups maintain the scandals are proof of the need for Congress to establish a stronger ethics code for the justices. Many Republicans, meanwhile, have been arguing that the bad publicity is just an attempt by the media and others to smear the current conservative majority on the court.
At least nine Republican senators would have to join Democrats in support of such legislation to defeat a likely GOP filibuster and allow a floor vote.
Roberts declined an invitation to testify at today’s hearing. Witnesses who will appear include former Judge Jeremy Fogel, Campaign Legal Center General Counsel Kedric Payne, University of Virginia Law School Professor Amanda Frost, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher partner Thomas H. Dupree Jr.
Other Senate hearings Tuesday include a Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry hearing on Commodity Programs, Credit, and Crop Insurance and a Banking Committee hearing on the National Flood Insurance Program.
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