Attorneys representing billionaire Nazi memorabilia collector Harlan Crow sent an electronic letter to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday declaring that "Congress does not have the constitutional power to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court," prompting a flurry of reactions by experts and lawmakers.
Probing the suspected corrupt relationship between Crow and Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Crow's counsel wrote, "would exceed Congress's Article I authority and violate basic separation of powers principles. That precludes the Committee from pursuing an investigation in support of such legislation."
Crow's lawyers argued that "separately, the Committee has not identified a valid legislative purpose for its investigation and is not authorized to conduct an ethics investigation of a Supreme Court Justice," adding that "the Committee's stated purpose of crafting new ethics guidelines for the Supreme Court is inconsistent with its actions and the circumstances in which this investigation was launched, all of which suggest that the Committee is targeting Justice Thomas for special and unwarranted opprobrium."
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) shredded those claims.
"Harlan Crow believes the secrecy of his lavish gifts to Justice Thomas is more important than the reputation of the highest court of law in this land," Durbin said in a statement, per Mediaite. "He is wrong."
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-California) called the memo "dumb. Congress has the authority to investigate the Executive Branch. Of course Congress has the authority to investigate the Judicial Branch. Also, what is Harlan Crow hiding from the American people?" he wondered.
Those responses were far from unique.
"It was Justice Thomas's decades-long improper financial relationship with billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow that sparked the Supreme Court corruption crisis, which has now reached a fever pitch. It’s no surprise that Crow continues to operate as though he and Thomas exist above the law — but they don't, and they must be held accountable,” watchdog group Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig said as noted by Raw Story. "Chief Justice [John] Roberts has deflected his responsibility to clean up his Court, forcing Congress to step in. Whether by Roberts or Congress, we need urgent reform to restore credibility and integrity to our Court."
Citizens for Ethics in Washington tweeted along with a May 1 editorial on the matter that "if you don't think there's a connection between Harlan Crow and Clarence Thomas's friendship, and the kinds of decisions Clarence Thomas has been making from the Supreme Court bench...well, then we have some news for you."
MeidasTouch: "Harlan Crow is not on the Supreme Court — but it's understandable why he might think he is due to his apparent corrupt influence on right-wing Supreme Court justices."
OkeyMor Taking a stand for justice with receipts: "Harlan Crow's lawyers need to re-read Article III of the US Constitution. Appointment to the bench is not a lifetime appointment but is contingent upon continued good behavior of the justices. It is up to Congress to define good behavior aka Code of Conduct."
Melanie D'Arrigo: "I feel like we're pretty close to learning that Harlan Crow gives Clarence Thomas an allowance."
Badd Company: "Dear Harlan Crow: The Executive Branch is equal to the other 2 Branches. They are also separate Branches of government. You say that Congress has no authority to investigate the SCOTUS but yet that same Congress is investigating the White House. Is it just the cake you want, or are you eating it too!"
Judd Legum: "I wasn't aware that HARLAN CROW was a MEMBER OF THE SUPREME COURT!"
The Lincoln Project: "No Labels doesn't mind right-wing racist dog whistles. No Labels megadonor and Clarence Thomas subsidizer/BFF Harlan Crow collects & proudly displays Nazi memorabilia, including Hitler's teapot and table linens. They dismiss it as nothing but 'noise.'"
Barbara Malmet: "Harlan Crow's word is garbage like his garden of evil."
Reprinted with permission from Alternet.