Dem Senator Asks Chief Justice To Testify on Supreme Court's Ethics 'Failure'

Sen. Dick Durbin/ Getty Images
April 20, 2023

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) on Thursday requested Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts appear before his committee to discuss the Court's ethics. The request comes as Justice Clarence Thomas is under fire from Democrats for reports that he failed to disclose vacations he took that were paid for by a Republican donor.

"The time has come for a new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court’s ethical standards," Durbin wrote. "I invite you to join it, and I look forward to your response."

Durbin said the Court has faced a "decade-long failure" to address "ethical standards" since justices last appeared before the committee in 2011.

"Since then, there has been a steady stream of revelations regarding Justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally," Durbin said. 

Durbin does not have the majority vote in the committee needed to subpoena Roberts if he declines to appear, because Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) has been absent from the committee while dealing with an illness.

A ProPublica report published earlier this month found that Thomas took several luxury vacations with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow and failed to disclose them.

Crow said Thomas and his wife, Ginni, did not ask for the gifts. 

"Justice Thomas and Ginni never asked for any of this hospitality," Crow said, adding that he "never asked about a pending or lower court case, and Justice Thomas has never discussed one."

Republican senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said he "would be surprised" if Roberts agreed to come. 

"And I would support his decision not to come if that’s what he wanted to do," Graham said Thursday.