Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said Congress has no “authority” to regulate the high court, becoming the first justice to publicly speak out against Democratic lawmakers’ attempts to impose a code of ethics on the court.
Alito made the comments during an interview to the Wall Street Journal opinion pages, which was published Friday after Democrats pushed Supreme Court ethics legislation through a Senate committee.
“I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it. No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court—period,” Alito said of Congress.
While the bill’s prospects in the full Senate are weak, Democratic lawmakers have sought to address the Supreme Court’s unique status as the only federal court created by the Constitution, which puts it outside an ethics code developed by the federal judiciary.
The Democrats’ effort comes after ProPublica began reporting on the activity of Supreme Court justices, with one such report revealing that Alito had taken a luxury vacation in Alaska with a Republican donor who had business interests before the court.
The 73-year-old Alito, who joined the court in 2006, has rejected the idea that he should have disclosed the Alaska trip or stepped away from cases involving the donor, hedge fund owner Paul Singer. Alito penned his own Wall Street Journal op-ed, which was published hours before ProPublica posted its story.
Alito said in the latest column that while judges and justices typically don’t respond to their critics, “at a certain point I’ve said to myself, nobody else is going to do this, so I have to defend myself.”
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have criticized Alito for the recent interview.
“What a surprise, guy who is supposed to enforce checks and balances thinks checks shouldn’t apply to him,” Ocasio-Cortez posted on social media. “Too bad! Corruption and abuse of power must be stopped, no matter the source. In fact, the court should be *most* subject to scrutiny, bc it is unelected & life appointed.”
“Alito’s next opinion piece in the WSJ is about to be ‘I am a little king, actually. The Constitution doesn’t explicitly say I’m not,’” the congresswoman wrote in a separate post.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., also responded, calling for a code of ethics for justices of the high court.
“Let’s translate these statements from Justice Alito, real quick: What we do and how we do it, who pays for our trips and our vacations, or a family member’s tuition, is none of your damn business,” Schiff wrote. “So buzz off. They need an enforceable code of ethics. Now.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.