Exposing the Radical Effort to Destabilize the Supreme Court

Written by Jorge Gomez

The U.S. Supreme Court is under all-out attack. Recent headlines reveal a concerted effort to manufacture an “ethics” scandal about Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court’s leading conservative and one of the foremost defenders of religious liberty. Justice Neil Gorsuch has also been the target of this smear campaign.

Democrats in Congress, along with their allies in left-wing radical groups and the media, are bringing back calls for radical court “reform.” A constitutionally suspect “judicial ethics” bill was introduced and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings last week on whether to impose an ethics code on U.S. Supreme Court justices. On cue, a coalition of more than 30 organizations—some of the most radical activists in the country—launched the “Just Majority” campaign to bring “structural changes” to the nation’s highest court.

Under the guise of “ethical” concerns, the political Left is reviving its scheme to stage a U.S. Supreme Court coup and rig the judiciary in its favor. We must expose court “reform” for what it is: a brazen power-grab.

First Liberty attorney Mike Berry explains:

“The Left’s end-game is obvious. They want the power to control our lives and they know the Constitution and judges who are faithful to it stand in their way. They want those judges out of the way so they can steamroll the Constitution and the American people. Great Americans like Justice Thomas are some of the last bulwarks of freedom.”

Thomas Jipping, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, says it’s all part of a plan for a hostile takeover:

“The Left craves power, and Supreme Court justices who respect the limits on their power are just standing in the way. The Left’s takeover strategy requires convincing Americans that judges are just politicians in robes, that the ‘conservative’ ones are the enemy and unethical to boot, and that they will…‘reap the whirlwind’ if they don’t get with the political program.”

Former U.S. Attorney General and federal judge Michael Mukasey agrees. He says it’s all about destabilizing the Court and eroding Americans’ confidence:

“It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the public is being asked to hallucinate misconduct so as to undermine the authority of justices who issue rulings with which the critics disagree and thus to undermine the authority of the rulings themselves.”

At a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Mukasey told senators who is really responsible for destroying and undermining the U.S. Supreme Court’s authority: “If the public has a mistaken impression that the integrity of the court has been damaged, the fault for that lies with those who continue to level unfair criticism at the court and its justices.”

Radicals also want to paint a caricature of the highest Court as hyperpartisan, in which “the current justices are deciding cases politically, rather than impartially,” Jipping says.

Contrary to the Left’s narrative, the Court is not a political circus. The Court has decided cases unanimously far more often than closely divided decisions. In 2016, for example, the Court decided an unusually large number of politically charged cases. More than half were ultimately decided by unanimous opinions. In those cases, there were no dissents. Everyone agreed. In its 2021 term, the rate of unanimous decisions actually went up. An ABC News report found that the Court had handed down more unanimous opinions than it had in the past seven years.

What’s more, there’s congeniality among the justices, even those with different judicial philosophies. Retired Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal nominated by former President Bill Clinton, recently defended Justice Thomas, describing him as a “man of integrity.”

“As far as I’m concerned, I sat next to him on the bench for 28 years,” Breyer said. “I like him. He’s a friend of mine. I’ve never seen him do anything underhanded or say anything underhanded.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor admitted she and Thomas have different views, but that did not stop her from praising her colleague. “I suspect I have probably disagreed with him more than with any other justice, that we have not joined each other’s opinions more than anybody else,” she told the American Constitution Society last year. “And yet, Justice Thomas is the one justice in the building that literally knows every employee’s name—every one of them.”

SCOTUS Coup by “Any Means Necessary?”

In its thirst for more power, the political Left appears to be unified behind the idea of “reforming” the Court “by any means necessary.”

Earlier this week, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin said “everything is on the table,” referring to the recent “ethics” hearing. Those words mirror statements by Durbin and his colleagues over the last couple years. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said,  “everything is on the table” when it comes to U.S. Supreme Court “reform.” U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer repeated the refrain, “everything is on the table” if his party won the majority in the 2020 midterms.

It’s clear from recent attacks how the political Left wants to hijack the U.S. Supreme Court. It wasn’t long ago we witnessed them pushing not only for court packing, but also term limits for justices. They even tossed around the far-fetched idea of ending judicial review, a historic legal doctrine dating back to 1803 that empowers the U.S. Supreme Court to declare a Legislative or Executive act unconstitutional.

Let’s not forget about judicial intimidation. Recall the unlawful demonstrations outside the homes of Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett. Fox News reports that as recently as this week, Left-wing protesters could be seen outside the homes of conservative justices chanting, “One, two, three, four: We want ethics on the court.”

It’s almost impossible to give court “reform” and its proponents any real credibility. The politicians and groups groaning today about the need for an “ethics” are the same ones who previously pushed for some of the most extreme changes to the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia, sponsor of the U.S. Supreme Court “ethics” bill in the U.S. House, also introduced legislation to pack the Court by increasing it to 13 justices.

First Liberty and many other respected legal experts have explained that court-packing would be catastrophic. It would be the gateway to tyranny. It would end the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court. It would destroy our Constitution’s founding principle of separation of powers, erode all public confidence in future court rulings and eradicate our cherished rights and freedoms, including religious liberty.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is sponsoring an “ethics” bill in the U.S. Senate. He’s also the one who introduced a bill to institute 18-year term limits for justices and give the president the power to select a new justice every two years.

Term limits appear benign. But they’re nothing more than an attempt to cancel justices. It’s better to call them “court purging.” It’s simply the U.S. Supreme Court coup by a different name. It is packing—and effectively destroying—the Court, two years at a time.

The timing doesn’t appear to be a coincidence. The current uproar and this fabricated “ethics” scandal come with just two months left in the U.S. Supreme Court’s term. By the end of June, the Court will hand down several major decisions about religious liberty, free speech and other fundamental rights.

Make no mistake. This wave of attacks is not about “restoring balance” or “fixing” the Court. This is the political Left trying to get around decisions it doesn’t like. When a ruling doesn’t go their way—or if they think the Court might rule against them—the plot to “reform” the U.S. Supreme Court makes a comeback. It’s clear what this all about: liberal zealots changing the rules and undermining the Court’s authority so they can grab more power.

Jorge Gomez is the Content Strategist and Senior Writer for First Liberty Institute. He has previously worked as a communications and messaging strategist for faith-based nonprofits and conservative policy organizations. He holds a degree in political science from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in public policy from Liberty University.