US Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenas Federalist Society president in Supreme Court ethics investigation News
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US Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenas Federalist Society president in Supreme Court ethics investigation

Federalist Society president Leonard Leo was subpoenaed by the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday as part of the committee’s ongoing ethics investigation into the Supreme Court.

The subpoena was authorized by the committee in November of last year when Durbin stated their goal “has been to ensure that like all other federal judges, Supreme Court justices are bound by an enforceable code of conduct…The highest court in the land cannot have the lowest ethical standards.” At the time, the committee authorized subpoenas for both Leo and Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow.

Leo has been under investigation for paying Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work over a decade ago, first reported by the Washington Post. Leo specifically asked that the payments specifically not mention Ginni Thomas and instead be listed as “Supplement for Constitution Polling and Opinion Consulting.” This relationship persisted, per documents from the Polling Company, through 2012. During this time, Leo’s Judicial Education Project filed an amicus brief in the Shelby County v. Holder case, which was granted by the court, challenging part of the Voting Rights Act.

Justice Thomas is not the only Supreme Court Justice Leo has had dealings with. In June of 2023, ProPublica reported Justice Samuel Alito accepted a luxury fishing trip with hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer. Alito did not disclose this 2008 trip. He responded by stating he followed “standard practice” in his failure to report the trip. During this trip, as reported by ProPublica, multiple photos were taken with Singer, Alito and Leo. Since the fishing trip, Singer has had business interests before the court at least ten times.

In a statement to the Washington Post, Leo condemned the subpoena, “I am not capitulating to [Durbin’s] lawless support of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the left’s dark money effort to silence and cancel political opposition.”  In a letter sent to Durbin by Leo’s attorney, Leo stated he would not comply with the “unlawful and politically motivated subpoena.”

Durbin described the subpoena as a necessary step, saying:

Since July 2023, Leonard Leo has responded to the legitimate oversight requests of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a blanket refusal to cooperate…His outright defiance left the Committee with no other choice but to move forward with compulsory process. For that reason, I have issued a subpoena to Mr. Leo.

Harlan Crow has not yet been subpoenaed, and the committee has declined to comment on this.