Senate Democrats have criticized Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito for not disclosing a private jet trip as a gift. Alito flew on a private jet owned by hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer to travel with Singer on a luxury fishing excursion. Six years after that 2008 trip, Alito ruled in favor of an arm of Singer’s hedge fund Elliott Management in a major case. The case sought several billion dollars in debt repayments from the nation of Argentina, one of several cases involving Singer’s company that came before the court. ProPublica reported that Alito appears to have broken the financial disclosure law because the law requires disclosure of gifts of private jet flights.
Alito sees no obligation to recuse himself from cases
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Justice Alito said he had “no obligation” to recuse himself from any of the cases Singer’s companies pursued before the Supreme Court. Alito argued that he was not aware of Singer’s connection to the companies that pursued cases at the Supreme Court. He also claimed that even if he did know, there would not have been even the appearance of impropriety in him considering the cases. Alito further argued that the instructions for justices to complete a financial disclosure report until a few months ago had said that “personal hospitality need not be reported.”
Democrats criticize Alito’s conduct
Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Alito’s defense “laughable.” Durbin called on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to issue a code of ethics for the high court, which currently lacks one. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called Alito’s conduct “egregious” and claimed that he broke the law. Durbin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who chairs the Subcommittee on Federal Courts, later issued a statement saying the Judiciary Committee will move toward writing legislation for ethics guidelines for the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court in an ethical crisis
In April, ProPublica reported that Alito’s fellow conservative on the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas, for decades had received luxurious trips paid for by Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican donor and Texas real estate magnate. Thomas likewise has claimed he did nothing wrong by accepting the largesse without disclosing it on annual financial disclosures. Crow additionally purchased Georgia properties owned by Thomas’ family, including one where the justice’s mother still lives rent-free. Crow also paid for private school tuition for Thomas’ grandnephew. Durbin and Whitehouse said in a joint statement that the Supreme Court is in an ethical crisis of its own making due to the acceptance of lavish gifts from parties with business before the Court that several justices have not disclosed. The senators added that the reputation and credibility of the Court are at stake and that Chief Justice Roberts could resolve this today, but he has not acted.
Senate Democrats have criticized Justice Alito’s conduct for failing to disclose a private jet trip as a gift. They have called for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to issue a code of ethics for the high court, which currently lacks one. ProPublica reported that the Supreme Court is in an ethical crisis of its own making due to the acceptance of lavish gifts from parties with business before the Court that several justices have not disclosed. The senators said the reputation and credibility of the Court are at stake.