A petition calling for an investigation into and impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is rapidly gaining traction following a series of ahead of the summer recess, with nearly 32,000 signatories calling for a probe in just two weeks.
The petition argues the U.S. Supreme Court needs a “clear and enforceable code of ethics” for justices and cited recent reports regarding gifts given to Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas. It follows another petition targeted at Thomas, which has accrued nearly 1.3 million signatures.
The petition references a recent report by independent news outlet ProPublica, which seeks to “expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust,” in late June, which contained an image of Alito on a fishing trip in Alaska with hedge fund manager Paul Singer.
ProPublica claimed the two stayed at a luxury lodge in 2008, and that Alito had been flown there in a private jet at Singer’s expense. Alito has confirmed he took a trip with Singer, but denied any wrongdoing in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s one thing for Singer to curry favor with lavish gifts,” the petition says. “It’s another for a Supreme Court justice, who should be held to the highest levels of scrutiny and of ethics, to accept these gifts.”
It adds: “The Senate must investigate Alito and all the corruption and, if they find wrongdoing, impeach.”
In an email to members, seen by Newsweek, MoveOn, the political action group hosting both petitions, mentioned the Supreme Court’s recent rulings and claimed that Alito “accepted luxurious vacations paid for by right-wing megadonors with cases before the court.”
Newsweek approached the Supreme Court and the office of Senate leader Chuck Schumer via email for comment on Saturday.
At the end of June, in some of the very last slots for announcing decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that race-based affirmative action in college admissions was unconstitutional and discriminatory, before deciding that a state could not prosecute someone on anti-discrimination grounds who refused the offer of work from an LGBTQ+ couple.
In both cases, Alito and Thomas were in the majority.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that so-called “positive discrimination” in university admissions violated the constitution’s equal treatment clause, which says that states cannot “enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
As such, the judge wrote, students “must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race,” adding that college admissions were “zero-sum,” and therefore “a benefit provided to some applicants but not to others necessarily advantages the former group at the expense of the latter.”
“Even in the segregated South where I grew up, individuals were not the sum of their skin color,” Thomas wrote in a supporting opinion. “I hold out enduring hope that this country will live up to its principles so clearly enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States: that all men are created equal, are equal citizens, and must be treated equally before the law.”
The second Black judge to take up a seat on the Supreme Court, Thomas faced criticism for opposing the policy despite acknowledging in the past that he was able to study law at Yale University due to the institution’s affirmative action policy.
However, he has long been critical of the race-based admissions policy, recounting his own experience of feeling stigmatized by it in his 2007 memoir. Dissenting on a related ruling in 2003, Thomas wrote that “Blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators.”
An earlier petition called for Thomas’s impeachment over another ProPublica report concerning gifts he had received while siding with controversial rulings such as the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to decide their own limits on abortion. The petition accused him of “crusading on behalf of his right-wing allies.”
ProPublica reported that in 2008 Thomas had allowed billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow to pay for the private school tuition of his grandnephew.
Dissenting to the affirmative action ruling, Kentaji Brown, a Black judge added to the bench by Joe Biden, wrote that “our country has never been colorblind” and that “race-linked disparities… continue to impede achievement of our great nation’s full potential.”
The court then ruled in favor of Lorie Smith, a Colorado web designer who declined to make a wedding site for same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs as a Christian, arguing an anti-discrimination law in the state violated her right to free speech under the First Amendment.
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