Justice Samuel Alito Says Congress Has ‘No Authority’ To Regulate Supreme Court

Justice Samuel Alito said Congress has “no authority” to regulate the Supreme Court in an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section published Friday, pushing back against Democrats’ attempt to mandate stronger ethics rules.

Alito, one of the high court’s leading conservatives, is just one of multiple justices who have come under recent scrutiny for ethics controversies that have fueled the renewed push.

“I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it,” Alito told the Journal. “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”

Although the Constitution enables Congress to structure the lower federal courts, it explicitly vests judicial power within a singular Supreme Court.

Alito and some legal observers argue that means Congress can’t prescribe certain regulations for the high court without running afoul of separation of powers issues.

Picture : TheUNN

Chief Justice John Roberts has also questioned Congress’s ability to act, but not as definitive as Alito’s new remarks. Many court watchers who disagree with the premise believe that Roberts’ questioning has given fodder to Republican objections.

“I don’t know that any of my colleagues have spoken about it publicly, so I don’t think I should say,” Alito told the paper. “But I think it is something we have all thought about.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) was among the Democrats who rejected Alito’s reasoning, writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, “What a surprise, guy who is supposed to enforce checks and balances thinks checks shouldn’t apply to him.”

The piece also revealed Alito’s first public comments on the recent ethics push since he authored an op-ed for the same paper that was shared just before a ProPublica investigation into an undisclosed Alaskan fishing trip the justice accepted in 2008 paid for by a conservative donor was made public. Alito also conducted an interview with the Wall Street Journal in April.

One of the two authors of the piece, David Rivkin, is an attorney for conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo. Rivkin earlier this week penned a letter rebuffing Democratic lawmakers’ request for information about the Alaska trip, which Leo reportedly facilitated, and Rivkin also actively practices before the court. James Taranto, the other author, is the Journal’s editorial features editor.

“I marvel at all the nonsense that has been written about me in the last year,” Alito said.

The revelations about the Alaska trip followed a ProPublica investigation into luxury trips accepted by fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas. The Associated Press later raised concerns about an aide to liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor pushing book sales, and other justices past and present have also faced criticisms for a variety of other ethics dilemmas.

In the wake of the new reports, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance a Supreme Court ethics reform bill, though the legislation faces slim odds of passage.

Republicans have portrayed the push as an attempt to tear down the court’s conservative majority, and some have similarly cited constitutional concerns.

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