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The UnSpremes

Who Watches the Watchmen?

​We may have another constitutional crisis on our hands. This past weekend in an interview for the Wall Street Journal, Samuel Alito, one of the nine unelected Supreme Court Justices of the United States, said that Congress has no right or ability to put checks balances or regulations on the Supreme Court. The question at hand concerned discussions in some corners of Congress to impose ethics standards on SCOTUS, after the plethora of ethics violations by the Justices recently in the headlines. This is, simply put, false. It is extremely clear from the language of the Constitution (posted below) that Congress does indeed have the right and ability constitutionally to regulate and set the parameters under which the Supreme Court operates. Article 3. Section 2. "In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make." This absurd claim is so far from the truth, that as one analyst put it, if Congress wanted to turn Samuel Alito’s office into a transgender bathroom they would have every right and ability to do so! The Supreme Court does not sit above the other branches of government, it is co-equal to, and can be checked and balanced by, them. Even more concerning, Alito asserts that he is not alone in this opinion, and that many of the justices, in fact, agree with him that there are no checks on the purview of their power. The sheer audacity of these statements is shocking, not the least because members of the court, like Alito, claim to be textualists and yet are clearly unable to interpret plainly written language in the Constitution. If the justices are incapable or ignorant of what the Constitution clearly says, this should be calls for impeachment! The sad reality is, however, that Alito will likely be correct in his assessment of Congressional oversight. We know that laws and norms are only powerful when people are willing and able to step up and enforce them. Currently, despite some rumblings from Congressional Democrats, there is little indication our Representatives have the spine or ability to stand up to SCOTUS. Despite the Supreme Court’s deep unpopularity, Senators like Dick Durbin and the Judiciary Committee may propose stronger ethic standards, but in this current Congress it will go nowhere, and only relentless campaigning and exposure of wrongdoing will move the needle. Instead, under Durbin’s leadership, the Senate only briefly held hearings around Clarence Thomas’ flagrant ethics violations, and it's likely that this travesty will also be brushed aside and moved past if nothing changes. We must ensure that these unelected individuals do not have de-facto free reign to determine the direction of our country. This is America, and the people do not support oligarchy. To win, we will have to join together not just politically, but economically, to attack the pillars of support which for these elite institutions. Only by banding together can we hope to re-exert the will of the people and follow democratic norms again in our institutions, instead of them serving a small, donor class. So, join us each week, in growing solidarity, as we watch those who would be our watchman and make sure that they administer a democratic, not autocratic, form of governance!

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