Or, more accurately, Don Quixote, meet today’s Democratic base. Why Don Quixote? Because a “quixotic” quest is one which is fantastical and romantic, but impractical and likely a lost cause, or has very little chance of success,. And that’s exactly what the current push on the left against the recent revelations about Clarence Thomas’ ethical improprieties are: a quixotic quest.
Why? Because although Thomas is a loathsome creature as a SCOTUS Justice – an incurious, ideologically rigid tool of the far right, and his actions would likely be a firing-level offense in any lesser jurist, there are no rules which govern the conduct of the Supreme Court. Perhaps there should be, and perhaps it will be this incident which convinces of the need for some…but as things stand right now, there simply aren’t any such rules. The Code of Judicial Conduct applies to every other judge in the United States except the nine who sit on the Supreme Court. Those nine members of that highest judicial body are supposed to be self-policing, and are – by design of the framers themselves – not subject to oversight or review by either of the other two branches of government (except as noted below). That’s what it means to be “co-equal”: Supreme Court Justices don’t work for or under the authority of any other branch. Their actions and conduct are non-reviewable by either Congress or the President. That’s what gives them the autonomy to act in the interest of the constitution and rule upon questions before them as they see fit, not as they worry their “bosses” (if they had any) might feel about their rulings.
Indeed, the only method of redress for a theoretical SCOTUS Justice run amuck is the same one which exists for a wayward or criminal President: impeachment. And the bar for that is – also by design – set just as high for Justices as it is for Presidents. There are three hurdles to clear to impeach a Justice and remove him or her from office:
- Articles of Impeachment have to be forwarded to the entire House of Representatives by the appropriate committee (usually Rules or Judiciary).
- The full House has to vote the accused guilty (this is the official “impeachment” – though it does not carry with it any specific remedy or penalty).
- The Senate then has to vote whether to remove the impeached official from office.
This just. isn’t. gonna. happen, folks. And pretending it will is a waste of organizing energy.