Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Commentary on Breaking Stories re: U.S. Supreme Court: "The current, carefully engineered conservative majority on the court is made up of deeply corrupted individuals"

James Earle Fraser's "Contemplation of Justice" statue, Supreme Court Plaza, photo uploaded by David to Wikimedia Commons

In her latest Letter from an American, Heather Cox Richardson comments on the story I discussed in a posting yesterday noting the report of Jodi Kantor and Jo Becker that Rev. Rob Schenck, formerly leader of an evangelical "pro-life" non-profit engaged in extensive lobbying in D.C., alleges that Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito leaked to friends the ruling in the Hobby Lobby case before that ruling was handed down in 2014. As my posting yesterday noted, Kantor and Becker indicate that Schenck maintains that, through Alito's friends, he himself obtained inside information about the ruling before it came down, and "used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case."

Heather Cox Richardson writes: 

Schenck provided the reporters with contemporary emails suggesting he knew the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case ahead of time, and they talked to four people who confirmed that he had confidential information about it before the court handed it down. He used that information to prepare a public relations push ready to go the minute the decision was public.

The leak of a Supreme Court decision is shocking and potentially illegal, but even more shocking than the revelation that there have been two major leaks from the court—both of right-wing opinions authored by Alito—was the story the reporters unraveled of the degree to which evangelical activists worked to become close to the justices, especially through participation in the court’s historical society, as well as religious events, a plan Schenck called “Operation Higher Court.” Their goal was to influence the justices quietly, and it appears to have been at least somewhat successful: in July, Peggy Nienaber, the executive director of Liberty Counsel’s D.C. ministry, who worked with Schenck, was caught on a hot mic saying she prayed with certain Supreme Court justices.

Jamelle Bouie writes, "The Case for Supreme Court Term Limits Just Got a Lot Better": 

My colleagues in the newsroom, Jodi Kantor and Jo Becker, describe a kind of revolving door, where wealthy donors to conservative causes invite justices to meals, vacation homes and private clubs; where they contribute money to the Supreme Court Historical Society for the purpose of meeting with and influencing the justices; and where the former head of one such influence operation, Faith and Action, went as far as to purchase a building across the street from the court so he could cultivate the people who worked there. ...

[W]hat if lifetime tenure, rather than leading judges away from temptation, makes it easier to tempt them. In an era in which the Supreme Court is as powerful as it has ever been — and which, not coincidentally, the wealthiest Americans have an almost unbreakable grip on our politics — what if lifetime tenure, rather than raising the barriers to corruption, makes it easier to influence the court by giving interested parties the time and space to operate? And beyond the question of undue influence, what if lifetime tenure works too well to sever the court from the public, rendering it both unaccountable and dangerous to the popular foundations of American government?

Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports, "Amy Coney Barrett urged to step away from gay rights case because of faith affiliation": 

Former members of Amy Coney Barrett’s secretive faith group, the People of Praise, are calling on the US supreme court justice to recuse herself from an upcoming case involving gay rights, saying Barrett’s continued affiliation with the Christian group means she has participated in discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people. …

“The People of Praise has deeply entrenched, anti-gay values that negatively affect the lives of real people, including vulnerable youth. These values show up in the everyday policies of the People of Praise and their schools. They are policies that are way outside the mainstream, and most Americans would be disturbed by them,” said Kevin Connolly, a former member of the People of Praise who is the brother of the group’s chief spokesperson. Connolly has previously made public remarks about physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.

Barrett has never publicly acknowledged her membership in the community since becoming a judge and did not disclose it during her 2020 confirmation. It was reported at the time that the People of Praise erased all mentions and photos of her from its website ahead of her meetings with lawmakers.

Charles Pierce gets the last word, summing it all up succinctly: "Ethical Storm Clouds Continue to Darken the Door of the Supreme Court": 

It is plain that the current, carefully engineered conservative majority on the court is made up of deeply corrupted individuals.

It is, indeed, Charlie. It is, indeed.

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