The Korea Herald


[Christine Ledbetter] Ethics crisis at US Supreme Court

By Korea Herald

Published : July 3, 2024 - 05:31

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A photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is pinned by a magnet to my refrigerator door, nestled among pictures of my grandchildren. With her head bowed, she is reading briefs during intermission at Arena Stage’s 2018 production of August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” in Washington.

I saw her numerous times at cultural events in DC during my eight years there. But I never introduced myself or told her she was my hero. I feared being embarrassingly inarticulate.

Imagine having a hero on today’s Supreme Court, with its near record-low approval ratings.

The conservative justices’ refusal to be held accountable and their decisions affecting women’s reproductive rights are key reasons.

The behavior of the court’s biggest conservatives, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, is particularly egregious. They give the middle finger to the nation with their clear ethics violations.

Thomas, whose greed knows no bounds and whose integrity is vacuous, has for decades accepted lavish gifts and extravagant travel from Republican Texan billionaire Harlan Crow without disclosing it, as federal law requires. As the justice’s personal piggy bank, Crow paid for Thomas’ nephew’s military prep school, purchased his mother’s house in Georgia and gifted trips aboard private jets and yachts, including to an all-male club in California.

Then there’s Thomas’ wife, Ginni, a Republican lobbyist who actively worked to overturn the 2020 election, even attending then-President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 rally. She received thousands of dollars in consulting work from conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo, who challenged a landmark civil rights law that came before the court and on which Thomas voted.

Speaking of wives, Alito blamed his, Martha-Ann, for flying flags supporting Trump at their Virginia and New Jersey homes. He was recently surreptitiously recorded discussing America’s return “to a state of godliness,” stating that the court’s role is “guiding us toward a more moral path.”

Meanwhile, Martha-Ann denounced pride flags in the same secret recordings made by the same documentary filmmaker posing as a Catholic conservative.

While Alito has yet to release his most recent financial disclosure, he previously failed to report luxury trips with Republican billionaire Paul Singer, whose hedge fund came before the court multiple times. Alito never recused himself and voted in Singer’s favor.

Responding to criticism, the Supreme Court adopted a toothless code of ethics in November that was widely denounced. Illinois US Sen. Dick Durbin, chair of the Judiciary Committee, wearily proposed ethics and transparency legislation, knowing it would be blocked by Republican opposition. “The ethics crisis at the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, is unacceptable,” he said as reported by The New York Times.

Both Alito and Thomas have refused to recuse themselves in the upcoming Trump immunity case, despite demonstrating prejudice in favor of the felonious former president.

The message to women is clear: These justices support a man who hid hush money payments to an adult film star, talked about grabbing women’s genitals and was found liable for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll.

Alito penned the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which upended the constitutional right of women to have abortions. Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh voted for Dobbs, and both, like Trump, have been accused of sexual assault.

Forty-nine years after Roe, the Dobbs verdict sent almost 200,000 women in abortion-banned states running to those allowing the procedure.

When I was a teenager living in Missouri, only four states sanctioned abortion. The child of devout Baptists, I was shockingly uneducated about sex. Once my parents realized I was pregnant, we met with our minister to discuss what to do. He counseled them to find the right course for my future -- in effect giving permission to end the pregnancy.

I traveled to California alone, taxied to the clinic, put on the new nightgown my mother provided and waited until my turn. My parents were not home when I returned, and we never talked about it.

Eight years later, that same Baptist minister officiated at my wedding to a man I met in college -- two events that would never have happened had he steered my parents differently.

And that’s the problem with believing there’s only one moral code. Alito and Thomas plunder and pontificate as if they’re God’s arbiters. In doing so, they bring back fear and shame to a new generation of women.

A year before she died, Ginsburg predicted challenges to reproductive rights but remained hopeful. “I think the young people I see are fired up, and they want our country to be what it should be,” she said.

To that end, I encourage my daughter and granddaughters to “Keep Marching,” as sung in the finale of the Broadway musical “Suffs.”

“Keep marching on/ And rеmember every mother that you came from/ Learn as much from our success as our mistakes/ Don’t forget you’re merely one of many others/ On the journey every generation makes/ We did not end injustice, and neither will you.”

Christine Ledbetter

Christine Ledbetter is a former senior arts editor at The Washington Post who lives in Illinois, where she writes about culture and politics. She wrote this for the Chicago Tribune. The views expressed here are the writer‘s own. -- Ed.

(Tribune Content Agency)