Oversight Group Presses Justices to Remove Cruz, Hawley from Supreme Court Bar

Senators Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) / Getty Images
January 13, 2021

A judicial oversight group is pressing to disqualify Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) from the Supreme Court bar because of their connection to the Capitol riot.

Fix the Court, a nonpartisan watchdog, wrote in a letter Wednesday that the lawmakers engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer of the Court by "baselessly objecting to the certification of the Electoral College results." The justices have the power to remove members of the Supreme Court bar for misconduct, and a few dozen members are usually disbarred each year.

Cruz and Hawley are both well-credentialed members of the legal elite, having graduated from top law schools and clerked for legal luminaries. Removing them from the Supreme Court bar would amount to a stunning rebuke, especially as SCOTUS lawyers and justices alike prize collegiality and respect despite deep disagreements.

"It's unlikely these senators will be removed from Congress, so we seek a consequence that is both meaningful and achievable," said Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth. "Suspension and removal from the Supreme Court bar hits that mark, as both senators would find such expulsion deeply unsettling given their SCOTUS experience. We welcome members of the Supreme Court bar to join us in our effort."

Roth told the Washington Free Beacon that removing Cruz and Hawley from the Supreme Court bar could satisfy other legislators looking to punish the pair over the Jan. 6 riot. Cruz and Hawley might even prefer disbarment, Roth argued, because they wouldn't have to worry about losing a plum committee assignment or being expelled from Congress.

Fix the Court called on other lawyers admitted to practice in the Court to support its request.

Lawyers must meet certain professional criteria to argue cases or file briefs in the Supreme Court. Qualifying attorneys are admitted to the Supreme Court bar during official sessions on the motion of two bar members in good standing. Even if the men are removed from the Supreme Court bar, they could still practice law in other courts.

Both men have substantial ties to the institution. Cruz clerked for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and argued nine cases before the Court as Texas's top appeals lawyer. Recently, he offered to argue an election lawsuit before the justices on President Donald Trump's behalf. Hawley was a clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts and met his wife, Erin Morrow Hawley, in Roberts's chambers, where she was also a law clerk.

Both men have signed on to legal briefs in politically salient Supreme Court cases since taking office. Hawley even authored a brief in an abortion case from Louisiana in June 2019. Lawmakers usually lend their names to such briefs, rather than writing one themselves.

Politicians have resigned from the bar over actions taken while in office. Former president Bill Clinton was suspended from practice at the Court in 2001. Instead of contesting the suspension, he chose to resign his membership. President Richard Nixon likewise resigned from the High Court bar following the Watergate scandal.

Hawley has been rebuked by his political and legal mentors in recent days. Former Sen. Jack Danforth (R., Mo.), a longtime patron, told Missouri papers that grooming Hawley for the Senate was the "worst mistake" of his life.

Neither Cruz nor Hawley commented for this article.