FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—Sen. Ted Cruz blasted the Left’s attacks on Federalist Society Board Co-Chairman Leonard Leo and other conservative friends of Supreme Court justices as an attempt to undermine the Constitution itself.
“From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme to the attacks on Justice Clarence Thomas, and from the smear tactics used to defame Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the libels against Leonard Leo, Democrats will stop at nothing to delegitimize the Supreme Court,” Cruz, R-Texas, told The Daily Signal in a statement Wednesday.
Leo, as co-chair of The Federalist Society’s board of directors, helps lead a premiere legal organization advocating for an originalist and textualist interpretation of the Constitution. Former President Donald Trump consulted with The Federalist Society to select his Supreme Court nominees.
“See these Democrat attacks for what they are—a full-on assault on our Constitution,” Cruz added. “Democrats hate our system of separation of powers, and they are willing to burn down the Supreme Court to accomplish their goals.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., announced Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to authorize issuing subpoenas to Leo and wealthy Republican donors Harlan Crow and Robin Arkley II. Crow has provided flights and lodge stays for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Arkley has hosted Justice Samuel Alito and Leo at his own lodge.
Durbin, who chairs the committee, and Whitehouse, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights, condemned Supreme Court justices for purportedly accepting “lavish, undisclosed gifts” and thereby enabling “their wealthy benefactors and other individuals with business before the court to gain private access to the justices.”
“The Supreme Court is in an ethical crisis of its own making,” the Democrats said. “Thanks to investigative reporting, we now know that for decades, some justices have been joining billionaires with business before the Court on their private planes and yachts or receiving gifts such as private school tuition for a family member.”
Durbin and Whitehouse referred to a series of articles “exposing” the personal relationships between Supreme Court justices and conservative leaders like Leo.
The opening salvo, ProPublica’s article about Thomas’ failure to disclose a transaction with Crow, a billionaire real estate tycoon, exaggerated Thomas’ mistake, which the justice went on to correct.
The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto noted that the left-leaning outlets running breathless “ethics” stories on the Supreme Court create a “heads-I-win, tails-you-lose” situation.
“If you follow the rules perfectly, ‘ethics experts’ will fault you for failing to disclose when it isn’t required and for what you disclose when it is,” Taranto noted.
Critics have noted that the ethics attacks appear to be an orchestrated campaign to undermine the court as it moves in an originalist direction. Pro-abortion activists opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), which struck down Roe v. Wade (1973) and allowed states to make their own laws on abortion. LGBTQ campaigners have demonized the court’s rulings upholding free speech and religious freedom in cases where Christians have refused to grant their artistic support to celebrate same-sex weddings.
After Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, Democrats in the House and Senate drafted legislation to appoint new Supreme Court justices. Biden created a presidential commission on the court to analyze judicial reform, but that effort appears not to be headed toward any concrete changes.
In lieu of structural changes to the Supreme Court, it seems many on the Left have resorted to attacking the court’s current members by insinuating impropriety without highlighting any clear quid pro quos.
Critics, among them Cruz, claim that Democrats’ real concern isn’t with corruption but with the court’s rulings on hot-button issues like abortion. Yet those rulings are rooted in constitutional principles. Dobbs, for example, did not amend the Constitution to repeal a right to abortion. Rather, in that case, the court concluded that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not bar state laws on abortion.
By contrast, previous Supreme Court majorities twisted the Constitution to find new rights, such as the Roe right to abortion, where they do not exist in the plain text of the document, originalists claim. The Left revolted against the court when it abandoned this practice in favor of dedication to the original public meaning of the Constitution, originalists say.
As such, by insinuating corruption on the Supreme Court, the Left is undermining not only the justices appointed by Republican presidents such as Donald Trump, but the Constitution itself, Cruz says.
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