December 8, 2021

Whitehouse Issues Statement on Supreme Court Commission Report

Senate Courts Subcommittee Chairman welcomes ethics and transparency discussion, but slams lack of attention to growing influence of Republican donor interests and the Court’s rapidly eroding credibility

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts and a leading critic of special interest influence over the federal judiciary, released the following statement on the draft final report of the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, which voted to adopt the draft report on Tuesday:

“The final report includes discussion of the weaknesses in transparency and ethics requirements for the justices. I’m pleased to see it point to the need for a stronger ethics regime for the Court. As I and colleagues of both parties have highlighted, the justices are unique among top federal officials in their failure to adopt a code of ethics. That must change.

“However, the verdict on this report remains the same: it misses the point. A reader of these findings comes away with no clue that:

  • A private, partisan, anonymously-funded organization governed the selection of the last three Supreme Court Justices;
  • Eight-figure donations pour into Supreme Court confirmation battles with no way to know who gave the money or what business they have before the Court;
  • Orchestrated flotillas of ‘friends of the court’ amass before the Court to instruct it which way to rule, and achieve virtually perfect success with Republican appointees;
  • Dark-money groups speed politically advantageous cases through peculiar fast lanes to the Court;
  • A vast network of right-wing front groups have spent over $400 million in dark money to capture and control the Court; and
  • The Roberts Court has delivered more than 80 partisan, 5-4 decisions benefiting big Republican donor interests – a tally that predates today’s six-justice Republican supermajority.

“Right-wing partisan interests have captured the Court, in the same way federal agencies are captured by industry. That capture has cracked the foundations of the Court’s credibility and threatens to tear it down altogether.

“This commission served its purpose of killing time for the administration to avoid confronting the deep rot at the Supreme Court. The American people are fast losing confidence in the independence of the Court, and who can blame them? Either we grapple with the Court’s very real and very big problems, or, as Justice Sotomayor said, the persistent ‘stench’ of the Republican majority’s partisan decisions will damage this precious institution beyond repair.”

Whitehouse has led efforts in the Senate to reveal the special interests seeking to pack the federal judiciary with partisan judges to deliver reliably in those interests’ favor. His efforts include Senate Democrats’ Captured Courts reports, which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) shared with the Commission earlier this year.

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921