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 breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), 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 breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/01/supreme-court-ethics-code-judges-john-roberts.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_and_Action

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/19/us/supreme-court-leak-abortion-roe-wade.html

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/26/politics/supreme-court-john-roberts-abortion-dobbs/index.html

[8] https://www.newsweek.com/conservative-likely-leaked-dobbs-decision-opinion-1755496

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/19/us/supreme-court-leak-abortion-roe-wade.html

[10] Ibid.

[11] https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-11-23/clarence-thomas-recusal-supreme-court-jan-6

[12] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/11/19/calls-ethics-probe-follow-bombshell-report-right-wing-attempts-influence-supreme

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Myth of a United States

From the founding of the United States till today, our country has portrayed itself as united. In the Declaration of Independence, our forefathers asserted that we are “one people.”[1]

The preamble to the Constitution begins: “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”[2] And, when we pledge allegiance to the flag, we say: “”I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”[3]

But, from the birth of our nation over 240 years ago until today, the truth is our country has rarely been united. From the very beginning, we had slave states and free states forbidding slavery. Back then as is still true now, we had the property-owning class, or capitalists, overseeing the working class.

After slavery was abolished during the Civil War, we still had the segregationist South, in conflict with the North, which generally favored integration. And, of course, we now have the blue states strongly disagreeing with the red states over abortion rights, immigration, voting rights and other major issues.

I believe World War II was the last time our country was truly united. What brought us together was a common enemy, the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan), which threatened the freedom of all Americans. Yes, 9/11 brought us together as well, but it didn’t take long before we were once again at odds over the Iraq War.[4]

Since the Vietnam War in the 1960s, our nation has become more and more divided. Today we are almost as deeply split as we were during the Civil War. In fact, some are predicting that the United States is on the verge of a second Civil War. 

What separates us now strikes at the very foundation of our nation. While many Americans are fighting to maintain the democratic principles upon which the country was established, others wish to turn the United States into an autocracy, ruled by Donald Trump and his white supremacist, MAGA followers.

And they appear to be willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Be it storming the Capitol, suppressing the vote, rigging the elections, stacking the Supreme Court, or whatever else they can fabricate.

We are the only ones who stand in their way. It is up to all of us who still believe in democracy to make sure they fail. Despite what you may think of President Biden and the Democrats, they are our only hope of preserving some semblance of democracy in America.

In fact, in recent weeks the Democrats have demonstrated that they just might be up to this awesome responsibility. They passed the Inflation Reduction Act making the system somewhat fairer for we, the people, including lowering a number of prescription drug prices and imposing a 15 percent minimum tax on large corporations, while every Senate Republican opposed the bill.[5] In addition, they enacted the most notable gun safety legislation in decades[6] and a bill to assist ailing veterans.[7] And, in just the last few days, Biden stepped in to support rail workers and avert a strike that would have further increased inflation and devastated our economy.[8]

Despite right-wing opposition, the Democrats are employing the mechanisms of government to help Americans and move our country forward. With less than eight weeks left until the elections, we must do whatever we can to assure that the Democrats prevail in November.

We must go the extra mile, make many phone calls, write postcards (Go to https://www.turnoutpac.org/postcards/), knock on doors, send donations. The future of democracy depends on what we all do to get out the vote and make sure that our nation does not succumb to the election deniers and far right conspiracy extremists. If ever your country needed you to stand up and get involved, it is now!

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), 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 breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.ushistory.org/documents/declaration.htm

[2] https://billofrightsinstitute.org/primary-sources/constitution?gclid=Cj0KCQjwvZCZBhCiARIsAPXbajtkXDb1iDTs6XOZWdFvpQarisNuvZktlvFd9MJuAYVnXr5kc50qtlcaAvEoEALw_wcB

[3] https://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm

[4] https://www.brookings.edu/articles/rally-round-the-flag-opinion-in-the-united-states-before-and-after-the-iraq-war/

[5] https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/07/democrats-senate-reconciliation-votearama-00050222

[6] https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/23/politics/senate-bipartisan-gun-bill/index.html

[7] https://www.npr.org/2022/08/02/1115325176/pact-act-veterans-burn-pits-toxins-passes-senate

[8] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/biden-announces-tentative-deal-avert-us-rail-strike-rcna47850

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will Republican State Legislatures Overrule the Results of the Next Presidential Election?

The current right-wing Supreme Court recently announced that in its next session it will hear the case of Moore v. Harper, a North Carolina case involving gerrymandered congressional district maps drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature. At the heart of this case is the radical doctrine labeled the “independent state legislature” theory.

Under the independent state legislature doctrine, state legislatures have absolute control over electoral votes in presidential elections. Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe and Dennis Aftergut, counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy, explain that “according to this baseless notion, state legislatures can do whatever they want in manipulating elections no matter how extreme the results — principles of voter equality and fairness be damned, along with the state’s constitution, its governor and its courts.”[1]

In other words, if the Supreme Court adopts this theory, it could rule that a state legislature can disregard the vote of the people and award its state’s Electoral College votes to whomever it wishes. And four of the Court’s justices have already signaled support for this idea.[2] As Thom Hartmann recently observed, Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution describes the state legislature’s role in presidential elections, but “doesn’t even once mention the popular vote or the will of the people:

“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…”[3]

The operative word here is “Manner.” Under the questionable independent state legislature doctrine, a state legislature can employ whatever manner it so choses in determining which candidate receives its state’s electoral votes.

Tribe and Aftergut further argue that “Going into this November’s elections, 30 state legislatures are firmly in Republican hands, including in most of the battleground states that determine presidential election outcomes. Adopting the independent state legislature theory would amount to right-wing justices making up law to create an outcome of one-party rule.”[4]

That is why the 2022 elections for state legislators are vitally important. Some of those 30 Republican-controlled legislatures must be turned over to the Democrats in this November’s elections. If Americans who care about saving our democracy turn out in great number and elect Democratically controlled legislatures this fall in enough states to muster an Electoral College majority, then they would prevent the overturning of the 2024 presidential election under the independent state legislature doctrine.

Once again, it is up to us to spread the word and get out the vote! Democrats have so many critical issues supported by a clear majority of voters: abortion rights, climate change, gun control, voting rights and now saving democracy itself.

We must light a fire under all Americans who want our democracy to survive. We all must get involved and do everything we can to ensure that radical Republican state legislatures cannot overturn the will of the people in the 2024 presidential election.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), 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 breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.yahoo.com/news/op-ed-supreme-court-poised-123049971.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2022/07/01/beware-supreme-court-laying-groundwork-pre-rig-2024-election

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/op-ed-supreme-court-poised-123049971.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Time to Fight Back!

In response to the recent Supreme Court decisions undercutting women’s rights, environmental protection, gun control and more, I agree with environmentalist Bill McKibben. His recent observations remind me of the Chinese proverb, “in every crisis lies the seed of opportunity.[1] McKibben wrote:

A reasonable reaction to the week’s Supreme Court rulings, which culminated in Thursday’s gutting of the Clean Air Act, would be: we are so screwed.

But there’s another way to look at it: we can turn the right-wing’s wet dream into a nightmare for them if we fight back. If we seize it, we have the best opportunity in many years for reconfiguring American politics.

The key thing to understand about these Supreme Court decisions is that they’re fantastically unpopular. On guns, on choice, and on climate the Court has taken us places Americans badly do not want to go. By majorities of two-thirds or more Americans detest these opinions; those are majorities large enough to win elections and to shape policy, even in our corroded democracy. The right, after decades of slow and careful and patient nibbling away at rights and norms is suddenly rushing full-tilt. That’s dangerous for us, but also for them. The force of that charge can, jiu jitsu-like, be turned against them.[2]

This past week in the case of West Virginia v. EPA, the Court found that the Environmental Protection Agency did not have the authority to regulate reducing carbon emissions under the 1970 Clean Air Act by forcing utility companies to shift from coal to renewable energy. The Court held that Congress did not specifically authorize the EPA to regulate CO2 in this way. The ruling effectively makes it much harder for the U.S. government to combat climate change.[3]

But it does much more than that. It opens the door to the Court’s usurping the role of ultimate policymaker in many other areas of our lives as well, be it education, healthcare or any matter where Congress has designated the power to regulate to the Executive branch. In a blistering dissent, Justice Elena Kagan accuses the Court majority of substituting its own ideas about policymaking for Congress’s: “…the Court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decisionmaker on climate policy.”[4]

What’s to prevent the Court from taking this same approach in other regulatory fields? In the short political term, according to McKibben, “a promise from every Democrat that they would overturn the filibuster and expand the Court if elected.”[5]

So, we need to get every Democratic candidate for federal office to make that promise on the record before the election campaigns heat up. That promise could well boost Democratic turnout in November. McKibben argues that “our majorities on these issues are large enough to overwhelm even these archaic structures. Seventy percent is enough.”[6] In fact, this fight must be taken to state legislative elections as well. (More about that in next week’s blog.)

While inflation and the economy will be important in voters’ minds, these recent unpopular Court rulings affecting all Americans could turn November’s election in the Democrats’ favor. Following the West Virginia v. EPA decision, on Thursday a coalition of 15 climate, environmental, and social justice advocacy groups, including the Center for Popular Democracy, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Indivisible, the Movement for Black Lives and the Working Families Party, called for the addition of four justices “to restore balance to the Court.”[7]

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) immediately joined this initiative. Markey asserted that “We cannot sit idly by as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution…We must also pass my Judiciary Act[8] to expand the Court to restore balance and legitimacy to the bench.”[9]

With just four months until the election, the battle lines have been clearly drawn. Support the coalition’s efforts. Urge your senators and Congresspeople to abolish the filibuster and pass the Judiciary Act of 2021. Our rights and American democracy depend on all of us fighting back now!

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), 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 breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1]https://www.pinterest.com/pin/368169338291210377/#:~:text=In%20every%20crisis%20lies%20the%20seed%20of%20opportunity

[2] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2022/07/02/time-now-people-powered-backlash

[3] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/supreme-court-climegae-change-carbon-emissions_n_62b36169e4b06169caa14933; https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/06/30/epa-supreme-court-west-virginia/

[4] https://reason.com/volokh/2022/07/01/justice-kagan-throws-down-the-gauntlet-we-are-not-all-textualists-now/

[5] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2022/07/02/time-now-people-powered-backlash

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/06/30/markey-bowman-join-climate-coalition-urging-scotus-expansion

[8] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/04/15/combat-right-wing-assault-democracy-new-bill-would-add-four-seats-supreme-court

[9] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/06/30/markey-bowman-join-climate-coalition-urging-scotus-expansion

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 breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), 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 breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/23/supreme-court-strikes-down-new-york-gun-law-restricting-concealed-carry.html

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/24/roe-v-wade-overturned-by-supreme-court-ending-federal-abortion-rights.html

[3] https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2021/10/26-states-are-certain-or-likely-ban-abortion-without-roe-heres-which-ones-and-why

[4] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/23/supreme-court-strikes-down-new-york-gun-law-restricting-concealed-carry.html

[5] https://www.menagainstgunviolence.org/men-and-gun-violence-stats; https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/politifact/2022/05/27/fact-check-most-mass-shooters-ages-18-19-texas-school-shooting-uvalde-robb-elementary/9933032002/

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/24/us/clarence-thomas-roe-griswold-lawrence-obergefell.html

[7]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_v._Virginia#:~:text=Loving%20v.%20Virginia%2C%20388%20U.S.,Amendment%20to%20the%20U.S.%20Constitution

[8] https://www.businessinsider.com/clarence-thomas-told-clerks-he-wants-to-make-liberals-miserable-2022-6

[9] https://www.cbs58.com/news/supreme-court-declines-to-revisit-landmark-first-amendment-decision-leaving-higher-bar-for-libel-in-place

[10] https://www.businessinsider.com/clarence-thomas-only-justice-dissent-in-trump-january-6-bid-2022-3