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Responding to the recent revelations about serious ethical breaches at the US Supreme Court, the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning held a hearing on Supreme Court ethics… or the lack thereof.
It was another frustrating journey through Opposite World. Instead of yelling at the TV, I invited Lisa Graves to join us today to weigh in on the situation.
Lisa is no stranger to the Senate Judiciary Committee, having served as its Chief Counsel for Nominations under then-chair Patrick Leahy – or to the DOJ where she was Deputy Assistant Attorney General under both Janet Reno and John Ashcroft.
Today, Lisa heads up TrueNorth Research. She usually appears on this show as a private citizen speaking for herself and not for her organization, today she’ll appear in both roles, offering her own opinion as well as the statement of the watchdog organization she leads.

In fact, TrueNorth Research sent out this press release following today’s hearing

Chief Justice John Roberts Has Failed to Protect the Integrity of the Supreme Court

Refusing to Appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Is Another Sign of Roberts’ Failure


Tuesday, May 2, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today held a hearing on the need for clear and enforceable ethical rules for the U.S. Supreme Court. This hearing was spurred by in-depth news stories revealing numerous failures by some Supreme Court justices to comply with even minimal rules for disclosure and other ethics standards.

True North Research’s executive director Lisa Graves – who oversaw reviews of the financial disclosures of federal judges as a senior advisor in all three branches of the government – made the following statement in response to today’s hearing:

“As Chief Justice, John Roberts’ most important role is to protect the integrity of the judicial branch, but by almost any standard, he has profoundly failed to protect the integrity of our highest court when the ethics of his colleagues have been called into question by their conduct.”

“For years, Roberts has failed to investigate documented evidence that Justice Clarence Thomas was not disclosing private jet and yacht trips and other gifts from a billionaire, but when a draft opinion leaked, Roberts sprang into action, announcing a probing investigation. In refusing to appear at this hearing, he attached a note that each justice contends they themselves are complying with ‘financial disclosure requirements and limitations on gifts’ – despite the manifest evidence that is not true.”

“Was Roberts one of the people who advised Thomas he didn’t have to disclose gifts of luxury travel?

This is one of the many questions that needs to be answered.”

“These are not complicated requirements, and I know that because I previously helped lead the part of the judicial branch that oversees the Financial Disclosure Office, in addition to serving as a leading staffer in the Justice Department and the Senate on judicial issues. I have reviewed hundreds of financial disclosure forms of judges and judicial candidates, which are usually filled out by their secretaries and accountants and then reviewed for accuracy and signed by the judges themselves. The language of these forms and the illustrative examples in the instructions are easy to follow.”

“If a Supreme Court justice cannot read the plain language of federal law regarding gifts of travel that thousands of other federal officials routinely follow and if the Chief Justice is unwilling to investigate or enforce any ethical standards for the highest court, such judges simply cannot be trusted to fairly interpret our Constitution and our fundamental freedoms. Congress must act to address Roberts’ failures and it must act to restore integrity to the Supreme Court due to his failure to act.”

Additional background on Lisa:

Graves previously served as the Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts that oversees the Financial Disclosure Office, as Chief Counsel for Nominations for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee where she reviewed financial disclosures and other materials, and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy/Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she vetted judicial candidates including reviewing financial disclosures.

In 2021, she testified before the SJC’s Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, & Federal Rights about billionaire Harlan Crow’s gifts of luxury private jet and yacht travel to Justice Clarence Thomas and other ethics concerns. That testimony was on behalf of the Center for Media and Democracy where she serves as board president and previously served as Executive Director. You can find additional information about this issue here.

True North Research is a national watchdog group that focuses on corporations and right-wing groups that are trying to capture the courts and influence public opinion. Its research team has expertise in analyzing the Leo network, the political empire of billionaire Charles Koch, and the growth of right-wing women’s groups targeting numerous issues affecting freedom, equality, and public institutions, like public schools. Follow True North onSubstack and Twitter@itstruenorth.