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Had enough of the Supreme Court?

Some of us took the time to write to Senator Blumenthal. Here is his response.
Dear xxx,     
Thank you for your message regarding the Supreme Court of the United States. I appreciate hearing from you.     
The cases and controversies decided by the Supreme Court have immeasurable impacts on the lives and livelihoods of people across the United States. I strongly believe an independent and impartial judiciary is critical to preserving the rule of law and the rights of all Americans, and that it is fundamental to our very democracy. That is truer now than ever before, as new revelations regarding justices’ ethical lapses continue to come to light.     
Reporting has revealed concerning dealings by several members of the Supreme Court, including the receipt of undisclosed gifts and luxury vacations from wealthy individuals with interests before the Court. But unlike every other federal court, the Supreme Court is not subject to a code of conduct for its justices. In the absence of such ethical guidelines, the justices are instead responsible for policing themselves. We have seen time and time again that they cannot be trusted to do so.     
The justices’ ethical failures have further eroded public trust in an already-damaged federal judiciary. For four years, former President Trump and his administration tried to move our country backward by implementing a destructive, cruel, and deeply unpopular agenda. When they fell short in carrying it out through executive action and legislation, the Trump administration and Republican allies looked to the courts—including the Supreme Court—to do their dirty work: to overturn Roe v. Wade, dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and strike down gun violence prevention laws. The former president, backed by dark money special interest groups, radically reshaped our federal courts with hundreds of extreme and often unqualified judges and justices, who—given the opportunity—frequently substitute their political views for the rule of law. In some cases, unfortunately, this plot has worked and the consequences have been grave.     
The path former President Trump and Senate Republicans led our courts and country down has eroded the legitimacy of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court. President Biden and Senate Democrats have since taken steps to reverse the harms caused by the former president and Senate Republicans, and to restore independence and integrity to our federal courts. This includes the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court and the dozens of other superbly qualified judicial nominees now confirmed to the federal bench. But we have more to do.     
For example, in the 117th Congress, I cosponsored the Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization Act, which would establish term limits for Supreme Court justices. Term limits will help restore credibility and trust to the highest court in the land. I look forward to supporting the bill again should it be reintroduced in the 118th Congress.     
I also cosponsor the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act—a robust plan to promote accountability and increase transparency in our federal courts. It would, among other things, require the Supreme Court to issue a code of conduct for its justices, which all other federal judges have had to follow for nearly fifty years. The central tenet of this code of conduct is the notion that “[d]eference to the judgments and rulings of courts depends on public confidence in the integrity and independence of judges.” The Supreme Court must hold itself to this same standard. The Court cannot continue to operate in the shadows as the only federal court without ethical rules and responsibilities. The SCERT Act was voted out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, of which I am a member, on July 20, 2023. Should it receive a floor vote, I look forward to advocating for its passage.     
Many have also proposed expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court. I take these proposals seriously — especially in light of the bitter, partisan conflicts around Supreme Court confirmations in recent years. By every measure, under the last administration, Senate Republicans prioritized political power over the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. In 2016, Senate Republicans refused to hold even a hearing for Merrick Garland, nominated by President Obama to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. In 2018, Senate Republicans voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, notwithstanding the credible allegations against him and the disqualifying lack of judicial temperament he demonstrated during his nomination hearings. And, in 2020, Senate Republicans abandoned their own precedent and broke their promise to the American people by moving forward with the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett just eight days before an election in which more than 60 million Americans had already cast their votes.     
This was not, and will never be, normal. History will reflect the fact that Senate Republicans shattered norms and broke rules to shift the balance of the Supreme Court further to the right – more radical and more extreme than ever – because they could. And, given the chance, they will do so again.     
President Biden established a Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, comprised of bipartisan experts, scholars, practitioners, and former judges, to analyze and assess current arguments for and against different proposals for Supreme Court reform, including, among other things, the number of seats on the Supreme Court. It is more critical now than ever to improve and modernize the Supreme Court. Our founders envisioned our justices would be insulated from politics, as independent and neutral arbiters committed to deciding issues of law and fairness without bias. Although the Commission’s final report avoided taking a position on Court expansion, it did chronicle some of the latest challenges to the public’s perception of the Court’s independence and impartiality. It is long past time that we restore the public’s confidence, including by exploring structural changes and term limits, and ensuring the Court abides by the same codes of judicial ethics that apply to the rest of the federal judiciary.    
Rest assured, as a member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which has jurisdiction over our federal courts, I will keep your views in mind on reforms to the Supreme Court as I consider legislative proposals introduced in the Senate. The justices’ ethical lapses have only underscored the need to ensure impartiality and transparency at the Supreme Court. There is no reason in law or logic that Supreme Court justices should be treated differently than other federal judges, especially given the proven inability of some to act ethically. Thank you again for your message. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any other questions or concerns.
Richard Blumenthal
United States Senate

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