Senate Democrats Subpoena Conservative Legal Advocate Leonard Leo in Supreme Court Ethics Probe

Katabella Roberts
By Katabella Roberts
April 12, 2024Congress
Senate Democrats Subpoena Conservative Legal Advocate Leonard Leo in Supreme Court Ethics Probe
Supreme Court justices (Front L–R) Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Elena Kagan. (Back L–R) Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, pose for their official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington on Oct. 7, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Conservative legal advocate Leonard Leo was subpoenaed by the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday as part of an inquiry into a series of alleged shortcomings among Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee—which is probing the alleged undisclosed travel and gifts to the conservative Supreme Court justices—confirmed the subpoena was issued to Mr. Leo.

The subpoena compels Mr Leo, who served as an advisor to former President Donald Trump on Supreme Court nominations, to provide information regarding his relationships with the two men.

The Illinois Democrat said the subpoena was sent because Mr. Leo has so far refused to cooperate with the committee’s inquiry.

“Since July 2023, Leonard Leo has responded to the legitimate oversight requests of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a blanket refusal to cooperate,” he said. “His outright defiance left the Committee with no other choice but to move forward with compulsory process.”

The lawmaker added that Mr. Leo “has played a central role in the ethics crisis plaguing the Supreme Court and, unlike the other recipients of information requests in this matter, he has done nothing but stonewall the Committee.”

Senate Judiciary Committee members voted in November last year to subpoena Mr. Leo and Texas billionaire real-estate developer Harlan Crow after reporters emerged that Justice Thomas and Justice Alito had accepted and failed to disclose free luxury travel and gifts from the two men as well as from conservative donor Robin Arkley II.

Supreme Court Unveils Formal Code of Conduct

At the time the reports came to light, Justice Thomas said he has “always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines” and did not previously disclose the hospitality from his close personal friend because he was advised early on that such activity “did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.”

He also pledged to disclose all necessary information going forward.

Meanwhile, Justice Alito also defended his actions by claiming it was not standard practice to disclose such trips in annual financial statements. However, he also vowed to bolster public transparency going forward,

Amid growing criticism in the wake of the reports, the Supreme Court went on to announce its first formal code of conduct governing the ethical behavior of its justices.

It is not clear why the Committee decided to issue the subpoena to Mr. Leo nearly six months after the initial vote was held.

Subpoena ‘Unlawful, Politically Motivated’

Mr. Leo is a conservative legal activist and longtime chairman of the Federalist Society, which according to its official website, is an “American conservative and libertarian legal organization that advocates for a textualist and originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.”

He told the Washington Post on Thursday that he will not comply with the subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I am not capitulating to his lawless support of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the left’s dark money effort to silence and cancel political opposition,” he said of Senator Durbin.

Meanwhile, his attorney called the subpoena “unlawful and politically motivated.”

Republicans have long suggested that Democrats are probing the Supreme Court Justices due to the court’s six-member conservative-leaning majority, which has passed down an array of decisions they find objectionable in recent years.

Three of the justices—Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett— were appointed by former President Donald Trump, a Republican.

In a separate statement on Thursday to Courthouse News Service, Taylor Reidy, a spokesperson for the Judiciary Committee’s Republican minority, noted that Senate Judiciary Democrats “tried and failed to authorize a subpoena back in November.”

“The document issued today is invalid,” the spokesperson said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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