December 1, 2022

Evangelical Lobbying Threatens Supreme Court’s Independence

Recent exposés have uncovered an emerging pattern of improper lobbying of right-wing Supreme Court justices by wealthy evangelicals. They reveal serious threats to the independence of the judiciary. But equally alarming is that the Supreme Court is unconstrained by a code of judicial ethics.

From 1995 to 2018, the right-wing evangelical nonprofit Faith and Action executed “Operation Higher Court.” It was an organized and systematic campaign “to wine, dine and entertain conservative Supreme Court justices while pushing conservative positions” on social issues pending before the court, Politico reports.

Faith and Action “would rehearse lines” in order “to influence the justices while steering clear of the specifics of cases pending before the court.” Faith and Action reportedly arranged for 20 couples to travel to Washington, D.C. to wine and dine Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

In 2014, Alito dined with evangelical lobbyists who left with inside knowledge that Burwell v. Hobby Lobby would go their way. Sure enough, three weeks later, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Hobby Lobby, holding that corporations that claim religious objections can refuse to fund contraception required by the Affordable Care Act. Alito wrote the majority opinion.

Alito authored the court’s decision once again in 2022, this time in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Four months before Dobbs came down, Alito’s draft majority opinion was leaked to Politico. The final opinion largely tracked the draft.

It is likely not a coincidence that both decisions served the conservative evangelical agenda and both were leaked by people with advance knowledge of the results. Although the right-wing members of the court had probably already made up their minds in these two cases, the leaks were apparently designed to strengthen their resolve.

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books by marjorie cohn
Drones and Targeted Killing The United States and Torture Rules of Disengagement Cowboy Republic: 6 Ways the Bush Gang Defied the Law Cameras in the Courtroom

about marjorie cohn

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law where she taught for 25 years. The former president of the National Lawyers Guild and criminal defense attorney is a legal scholar and political analyst who writes books and articles, and lectures throughout the world about human rights, US foreign policy, and the contradiction between the two. She has testified before Congress and debated the legality of the war in Afghanistan at the prestigious Oxford Union. Her columns appear on Truthout, HuffPost, Salon, Jurist, Truthdig, Portside, CommonDreams and Consortium News, and she has provided commentary for CBS News, BBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, NPR and Pacifica Radio. Learn more about Marjorie >>

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