WASHINGTON — On Nov. 7, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), a member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights, delivered remarks on the Senate floor emphasizing the need for the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote to authorize issuing subpoenas to Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo, and Robin Arkley II as part of the committee’s Supreme Court ethics investigation.
“These are individuals with immense power — shouldn’t they be held to the highest level of ethical accountability?” said Hirono. “Not because we disagree with some of the court’s decisions, but because its legitimacy depends on Americans having faith that those decisions were arrived at fairly and objectively, not influenced by moneyed special interests.”
Congress has a well-established role in oversight of the judiciary and updating ethics laws that apply to federal officials including justices and judges. For instance, Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act, which the justices are subject to, and created the Judicial Conference, which administers that law.
“Instead of having the strongest ethical rules — or any binding ethical rules, for that matter — the Supreme Court purports to follow a ‘collection of principles’ that are both non-binding and weaker than the rules for government workers, for members of Congress, and for many private sector employees,” continued Hirono. “If the Supreme Court will not adopt a code of conduct for itself, then Congress has the constitutional power and responsibility to impose a code of conduct on it.”
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Hirono has consistently championed more robust ethics and accountability for the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.
Last month, she introduced the Supreme Court Biennial Appointments and Term Limits Act, legislation to establish 18-year term limits and regularized appointments for Supreme Court justices.
In July, she voted to advance the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act out of committee. The legislation, of which she is an original co-sponsor, would require the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of ethics.
Earlier this year, she also introduced the Stop Judge Shopping Act, legislation to combat “judge shopping” in federal courts by giving the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (DDC) exclusive jurisdiction over cases that would have national implications.
In May, she joined all of her Judiciary Committee Democratic colleagues in sending letters to Republican mega-donor Crow and the holding companies that own his private jet, private yacht, and Topridge Camp. That month, she also questioned a panel of legal experts about the need for a strong Supreme Court code of ethics during a Judiciary Committee hearing.
Hirono also joined all of the Judiciary Committee Democrats in sending a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate a ProPublica report that Justice Clarence Thomas accepted and failed to disclose 20 years’ worth of lavish gifts and luxury travel from Crow.