21 June 2023

Supreme Court impeachments and increase

Generally, I think we have to be wary of changing goalposts and hypocrisy, even for a good cause. Consider the current Supreme Court scandals. Is there a danger of that here? The scandal mostly seems to center around expensive perks given to right wing judges by people who pretty clearly are trying to influence them or, more likely, ensure their compliance with an agenda that sometimes causes them to shred the law and even logic. Thomas seems to be the worst: expensive private vacations, education expenses (much like Trump's lackeys), for which I'll bet no one paid any taxes; real estate sweethearts. Alito took expensive vacations from a billionaire with actual cases before the Court. But is this out of norm, or new? What was Scalia doing at a super private richy rich resort when he died? If we were calling these things out just to get at our least favorite judges (which we are, to an extent), and these things were just business as usual for all the justices, I would be sympathetic to an argument that it's a double standard. But that does not appear to be the case. It's the cynical and unprincipled right wingers who do this stuff. The more honorable justices (which I'm guessing includes Roberts and former Justice Kennedy) have avoided quid pro quos, and even the appearance thereof. So, no, this stuff is already against recognized judicial ethics standards, whether or not these are enforceable canons against the untouchable Supreme Court. 

We certainly can make newly black-letter the requirement that justices of the SC accept no emoluments of any kind. Increase their pay, to say $750K (it's now nearly $250), but impose strict ethical standards beyond any doubt. And, meanwhile, in the cases of Thomas and Alito, in a fine day after the 2024 election, one hopes, the Congress should impeach and convict those two for ethical lapses. There is certainly basis in the constitution for removing them from office for "bad behavior." In Thomas's case, there are other grounds as well, since he clearly voted on cases in which his wife had a pretty well-defined interest. 

This is only one element of dealing with the crisis caused by the far right takeover of the Court. The other is to pass the expansion of the Court to 13 that has already been drafted and presented as a bill. There is precedent for that, too, and the Congress unquestionably has the power to do that (subject to presidential veto). 

I disagree with the Biden wing of our party that seems to think that no interference with the court is ever justified. But the fact is, the court has been hijacked, and the means to do it, if not outright illegal, certainly make a mockery of how the constitution is supposed to work. So, I say, a some extraordinary measures to right the course are called for. 

Of course we can do very little if we don't win. Democrats, who are now the "big tent" party that includes or at least pulls in temporarily everyone who believes in the continuity of small-r republican government, need to push for a full-on landslide at all levels in 2024, so we can undertake the kinds of actions that will not only "right the course," but ensure that the ol' ship o' state stays on course for a good long while afterwards. 

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