The Struggle for the Soul of America: Hold Ethically Challenged Supreme Court to Account

While we have left-leaning judges and right-leaning judges, Americans expect all judges to adhere to strict ethical standards. That would be especially true of justices who sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. Yet, the nine justices of the Supreme Court are the only judges in the country who are not bound by a written code of ethics.[1]

Chief Justice John Roberts has asserted that there is “no reason” to adopt a Supreme Court ethics code because members of his court consult a wide variety of other sources for guidance.[2] But recent revelations and events are proving him wrong.

The 25-Year Crusade to Overturn Roe v. Wade

In 1996, Rev. Rob Schenck founded Faith and Action, an ecumenical outreach ministry “to top-level government officials located in Washington, DC, throughout the United States and around the world…They seek to base their outreach on a personal relationship with the person targeted.”[3]

According to Rev. Schenck, Faith and Action aims to “win the hearts and minds of those who make public policy.” Its mission is to reintroduce the Word of God into the public debate surrounding legislation and policy matters.” It is a leader in the anti-abortion movement. Although it targets elected officials, government employees, Supreme Court justices and clerks, and other government personnel, it is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.[4]

As the leader of Faith and Action, Rev. Schenck was an effective, pro-life lobbyist working to influence members of the Supreme Court, especially Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas. Raising over $30 million, he recruited wealthy donors and encouraged “them to invite the justices to meals, to their vacation homes or to private clubs. He advised allies to contribute money to the Supreme Court Historical Society and then mingle with justices at its functions. He ingratiated himself with court officials who could help give him access.”[5]

Mr. Schenck said “his aim was not to change minds, but rather to stiffen the resolve of the court’s conservatives in taking uncompromising stances that could eventually lead to a reversal of Roe.”[6] Apparently, he succeeded. In the Court’s recent Dobbs case overruling Roe v. Wade, Chief Justice Roberts tried unsuccessfully to limit but still save the constitutional right to abortion. The five justices to his right refused to accept Roberts’ compromise.[7]

Court Leaks Raise Serious Ethical Issues

The fact that the pending Dobbs decision was leaked in advance raises additional ethical concerns. As noted by Newsweek, the leaking of the draft opinion with the names of the five conservative justices who had already signed on to it “made it nearly impossible for any of those five justices to change their minds.”[8]

It was clearly in the interest of Justice Alito, the author of the hardline Dobbs decision, to make certain that none of his fellow conservatives had a change of heart. In fact, there was a similar advanced leak of the Hobby Lobby ruling that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance covering contraception violated their religious freedoms.[9]

That 5-4 majority opinion which adversely affected the Affordable Care Act was also written by Alito in 2014. Rev. Schenck received the advance notice of the decision from a major donor who had had dinner with Justice Alito the previous night. He “used that information to prepare a public relations push“ that promoted his religious right organization.[10]

The Urgent Need for Reforming the Court

It’s bad enough that we have a Supreme Court heavily titled to the right. Now, on top of that, at least one justice appears to be very ethically compromised. In addition, Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, has called for an ethics probe into right-wing Justice Clarence Thomas’s alleged conflicts of interest in cases involving efforts to overturn the 2020 election in which his wife, Ginni, participated.[11]

Fallon thinks the Senate Judiciary Committee “should immediately move to investigate the apparent leak by Justice Alito.” He believes that “Structural reform of the court, including strict new ethics rules, is needed now more than ever.”[12]

We cannot let this go. A thorough public investigation by Congress is required, and, possibly, impeachment proceedings. Call your senators and representatives. Demand action.

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

Subscribe to this blog at Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[2] Ibid.


[4] Ibid.


[6] Ibid.




[10] Ibid.



The Struggle for the Soul of America: Do Recent Decisions Expose Justice Clarence Thomas’s Impeachable Bias?

The struggle for the soul of America got a lot more real this past week. By the end of the week, the Supreme Court had handed down two major decisions imperiling the lives of most Americans.

On Thursday the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law requiring applicants for a license to carry a gun outside of their homes to have a “proper cause” to do so. The law had made it a crime to carry a concealed firearm without a license.[1] With the Court’s ruling, we are all in greater danger of being an innocent victim of a mass shooting wherever we go.

Then, on Friday the court overruled Roe v. Wade, the 50-year-old case which established the right to an abortion was guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that abortion is not a Constitutional right, thereby giving individual states the power to set their own abortion laws.[2]

With Republicans controlling 26 state legislatures likely to ban abortion, millions of American women will now lose control over their reproductive health decisions.[3] Low-income women will be disproportionately affected since they lack the resources to travel to states where abortion will continue to be legal. The social injustice that the Court has unleashed is unconscionable.

While the conservative majority’s opinions are unnerving, Justice Clarence Thomas’s views deserve greater scrutiny. In the New York gun case, Justice Thomas’s majority opinion invalidated the gun control law because it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their rights under the Second Amendment.[4] Apparently, Thomas believes an individual’s right to carry a concealed weapon in public outweighs the state’s right to protect its citizens against being killed by an angry man in schools, theaters, churches or wherever. More than 98% of all mass shooters are men, often younger than 25.[5]

In overruling the right to an abortion, Thomas’s concurring opinion indicated that the courts’ rationale should also be used to overturn substantive due process cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage.[6]

What is very telling, however, was Justice Thomas’s failure to include overturning the substantive due process right to interracial marriage established in the landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia.[7] For those who are unaware, Thomas is black and his wife, Ginni Thomas, is white. His not objecting to the right to interracial marriage which is based on the same 14th Amendment “due process” clause clearly looks like a biased effort to protect his own marriage. This calls into question Thomas’s ability to be an impartial arbiter of the law.

But Thomas’s inability to be an objective judge goes way beyond shielding his interracial marriage. Thomas’s confirmation hearings were very contentious due to Anita Hill’s accusations of his sexual misconduct. Liberal Democratic senators made it a central focus of the hearings. Later a former law clerk remembered Thomas saying, “The liberals made my life miserable for 43 years…And I’m going to make their lives miserable for 43 years.”[8] Thomas’s desire for revenge while on the court raises serious questions about his impartiality.

In fact, just today Thomas exhibited his lack of judicial objectivity when he was the lone dissenting vote in the Court’s refusal to hear the Coral Ridge Ministries Media appeal. That case challenged the liberal higher bar for public figures to claim libel that was established in the 1964 case of New York Times v. Sullivan.[9] Another example of Thomas’s bias against liberals unduly influencing his judicial decisions.

Last January Thomas was the only dissenting vote when the court rejected Donald Trump’s bid to block the release of his presidential records to the House select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. Later, the Washington Post revealed that Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, sent then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows texts urging him to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election results after Trump’s loss to Joe Biden.[10]All the other conservative justices, three even nominated by Trump, rejected Trump’s request. Did Ginni Thomas’s involvement in the efforts to overturn the election influence Justice Thomas’s dissent?

Maybe it’s time for Congress to examine Justice Thomas’s lack of judicial impartiality. Along with the Court’s dangerous decisions last week, this is another issue to raise in the November elections. Another reason to vote against the Republicans who want Thomas to remain on the bench, who support carrying concealed weapons without a good reason and who deny a woman’s right to choose. Democrats need to make all this very clear to the voters in the fall. More than ever, we need to get out the vote in order to save and restore our rights.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

Subscribe to this blog at Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.