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Durbin Speaks on Need to Authorize Subpoenas for Crow, Leo, and Arkley Related to Supreme Court Ethics Reform

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussed his recent announcement that the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to authorize issuing subpoenas to Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo, and Robin Arkley II as it relates to the Judiciary Committee’s Supreme Court ethics investigation.

“Last night, I announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I chair, will vote to subpoena Harlan Crow, Robin Arkley, and Leonard Leo—two billionaire mega-donors and one of their enablers—who sit at the center of the ethical crisis currently gripping the United States Supreme Court.  This vote is the next step in the Committee’s ongoing investigation on the ethics of the Supreme Court.  It comes only after Mr. Crow refused to comply with Committee requests, and Mr. Leo and Arkley outright stonewalled the Committee in the exercise of our constitutional authority,” Durbin said.  “For years, years, Mr. President, reports of ethical misconduct by individual justices on the Supreme Court have raised serious concerns.  But over the past year, a series of investigative reports have brought the long-simmering issue to a boil.  Story after story has emerged about lavish gifts and luxury trips that Supreme Court justices shamelessly accepted and failed to disclose.  The reported behavior is unworthy of anyone in public office and it has led to an historic loss of public confidence in the Supreme Court.”

Durbin went on to describe the lavish gifts to Supreme Court justices that Harlan Crow, Robin Arkley, and Leonard Leo have facilitated over the years and how the justices have failed to disclose them.  He also outlined the letters that the Committee has sent to a number of billionaires, activists, and organizations—including Crow, Arkley, and Leo—connected to these undisclosed gifts and travel since May.

“How can a Supreme Court justice accept such lavish gifts, let alone fail to disclose them to the American people?  The answer is very simple.  The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the land, does not have an enforceable code of conduct,” Durbin said.  “Unlike employees of the executive and legislative branches, virtually all of them, unlike Members of Congress and all other federal judges, the nine Supreme Court justices alone decide for themselves what conduct is and is not appropriate.”

Durbin continued, “So far, the Chief Justice, John Roberts, and the Court have failed to do anything.  In the face of the Supreme Court’s failure, the Senate Judiciary Committee has exercised its constitutional right and duty to investigate this ethical crisis in order to craft and advance legislation to address it.  Beginning in May, the Committee has sent letters to number of these billionaires, activists, and organizations connected to the undisclosed gifts and travel.  I am sorry to say I happen to believe that we have just seen a small amount of the lavish gifts that have gone to the Supreme Court thanks to the efforts of investigative journalists and the Senate Finance Committee that have discovered some of these things.  But I sadly believe there is much more out there.  We are seeking details about what exactly has been given to these Supreme Court justices, as well as how certain individuals and groups that have business before the Court gain such enormous access to the private lives of these justices.  Getting this information is critical.  While there’s been reporting on the justice’s ethical failures, there’s more information out there that we need to find.”

Durbin concluded, “I’m not going to stand idly by as these fawning billionaires with interest before the Court use their immense wealth to buy private access to the justices and then deny the Senate Judiciary Committee information to which we’re lawfully entitled.  That is why the Committee will vote to authorize subpoenas to these individuals.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

In July, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act to the full Senate.  The bill would require Supreme Court Justices to adopt a code of conduct, create a mechanism to investigate alleged violations of the code of conduct and other laws, improve disclosure and transparency when a Justice has a connection to a party or amicus before the Court, and require Justices to explain their recusal decisions to the public.

Durbin has been calling on the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of conduct for more than a decade.  He first sent a letter to the Chief Justice on this issue more than 11 years ago.