New revelations about questionable financial relationships and possible conflicts of interest of Supreme Court justices seem to be uncovered almost every day. The failure of Chief Justice Roberts to address these scandals further undermines the credibility of the Court. The failures of justices to recuse themselves from Supreme Court cases where conflicts of interest seem apparent call into question many of the Court’s decisions where the outcomes would have been different if recusals had occurred. The political nature of the rulings of the six radical, right-wing justices becomes clearer and clearer as they upend precedents and democratic norms to achieve what seem to be predetermined outcomes. Legislation has been proposed to force the Court to institute a code of ethics. (See this previous post for an overview of ethical issues with Supreme Court justices and this post for a summary of Justice Thomas’s ethical scandals.)

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New revelations about the questionable financial relationships of Supreme Court justices seem to be uncovered almost every day. One new tidbit is about Justice Gorsuch’s sale of property. As previously reported, the almost $2 million sale was to an individual not identified on Gorsuch’s financial disclosure, but who turned out to be the CEO of a major law firm that has had 22 cases before the Court since the purchase. The new tidbit is that the property had been on the market for two years before the sale, which occurred just nine days after Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. [1]

Possible conflicts of interest are present in the George Mason University Justice Scalia Law School’s relationships with three of the radical, right-wing Supreme Court justices, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas, who have been hired as faculty members. For Gorsuch and Kavanaugh this has included handsomely paid (almost $30,000) two-week teaching gigs in Europe that seem more like subsidized vacations than work. All three of them have used Supreme Court staff to support their activities at the school despite a judicial advisory opinion that states that staff members should not support justices “in performing activities for which extra compensation is to be received.” These justices (and others) have also been recruited to be lecturers and special guests at school events. They have also attended fundraisers for the school even though Supreme Court Justices are not supposed to be involved in any fundraising activity. [2]

The dean of the law school, Henry Butler, has bragged to donors about his close ties to Supreme Court justices and he invited Justice Gorsuch on a junket to Montana to meet with a property rights group (where Butler is on the Board of Directors). The invitation was made a month after the Supreme Court decided to hear a property rights case of interest to the group. Faculty at the law school frequently submit friend-of-the-court briefs on cases before the Supreme Court that these justices rule on because they don’t recuse themselves. [3]

The law school was named after deceased Justice Antonin Scalia after right-wing power broker Leonard Leo engineered $30 million in gifts to the school in support of the renaming. The Charles Koch Foundation (of the Koch brothers, billionaire funders of many right-wing political activities) gave $10 million with the other $20 million coming from an anonymous donor. This donor is widely believed to be Barre Seid, who later gave $1.6 billion to a right-wing political group controlled by Leo.

On April 25, 2023, Chief Justice Roberts refused the Senate Judiciary Committee’s request that he testify before it about the scandals with Supreme Court justices. Roberts noted in his response that the justices subscribe to a statement of ethics principles and practices, which he attached. The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee responded with a letter saying: “It is noteworthy that no Justice will speak to the American people after numerous revelations have called the Court’s ethical standards into question, even though sitting Justices have testified before Senate or House Committees on at least 92 occasions since 1960.” They asked when the justices had agreed to the statement of ethics. Roberts stated that the justices had agreed to the ethics statement on April 25, 2023. [4]

None of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee signed on to the request to Roberts. This may be due in part, as was recently revealed, to the fact that since 2001 the nine of them have each received campaign contributions from Harlan Crow that total at least $457,000 for the group. Crow, of course, is the same right-wing billionaire who has given millions in gifts to Justice Thomas that Thomas didn’t report. The Committee has sent a letter to Crow requesting that he provide full details of his financial ties and gifts to Thomas and other Supreme Court Justices. [5]

The Judicial Conference of the United States, a body of federal judges led by Chief Justice Roberts, is legally mandated to oversee administrative and policy issues of the federal court system. It is reportedly considering the matter of Justice Thomas’s conduct. It would certainly appear that it has plenty of information to warrant a referral of Thomas to the Attorney General for an investigation of violations of federal ethics and disclosure laws. [6]

The intertwined relationships between the six radical, right-wing justices and the wealthy individuals funding the right-wing of the Republican Party (as well as a network of powerful political organizations) have produced a definite appearance of conflicts of interest, if not actual quid pro quo corruption. This is underscored by the consistency of their rulings favoring right-wing causes and the business and political interests of these wealthy, right-wing “friends” of the Court. The frequency with which long-standing legal precedents and judicial processes are thrown out to the benefit of these interests gives clear credence to charges that these six justices are driven by politics and not the law. These rulings have dramatically undermined the rule of law and our democracy. It is important to note that any number of the justices’ votes in key decisions, many of them by 5 – 4 tallies, were ethically compromised by apparent conflicts of interest and their failures to recuse themselves. The outcomes of many of these cases would have been different if they had recused themselves.

On April 26, Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Supreme Court Code of Conduct Act. The bill would require a Supreme Court code of ethics and avoid any separation of powers concerns by requiring the court to write its own code of conduct and appoint an official to review possible conflicts of interest and public complaints. It’s a straightforward bill to address the ethical scandals at the Court and at least begin to restore the public’s confidence in the Court. [7] Even before these scandals erupted, proposals had been put forward to counter the radical behavior of the six right-wing justices by expanding the size of the Court with new justices and / or by instituting term limits to ensure regular turnover on the Court so that it couldn’t be politically manipulated.

Ultimately, the voters will determine the future of the Court. Their reactions to the Court’s rulings and behavior will affect their voting. Some of the justices, seeing this, may moderate their rulings as occurred in the 1930s when Franklin Roosevelt was President and his policies were being blocked by the Court. Or the voters may shift the power in Congress and the White House away from the Republican Party with which the six justices are in cahoots, thereby allowing legislative and appointment power to repair the Court over time.

My next post will take a step back and look at the Supreme Court from the broader perspective of its alignment with the radical, reactionary, right-wing of the Republican Party. This politicization and the Court’s related actions have not only undermined the Court’s legitimacy, but also the rule of law, a foundational principle of American democracy and exceptionalism, and other institutions of democracy as well.

[1]      Cox Richardson, H., 5/1/23, “Letters from an American blog,” (

[2]      Eder, S. & Becker, J., 4/30/23, “How Scalia Law School became a key friend of the Court,” The New York Times

[3]      Levy, P., 5/2/23, “The Dobbs leak didn’t wreck the Supreme Court – the justices’ scandals did,” Mother Jones (

[4]      Cox Richardson, H., 5/1/23, see above

[5]      Stancil, K., 5/9/23, “Billionaire Harlan Crow also bankrolled GOP lawmakers blocking SCOTUS ethics reform,” Common Dreams (

[6]      Levy, P., 5/2/23, see above

[7]      Cox Richardson, H., 5/1/23, see above


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