United States – Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairperson on Thursday ordered the subpoena of the high-ranking conservative legal personality, Leonard Leo, as part of an investigation into allegedly unreported lavish gifts for some conservative justices.

Importance

The Supreme Court in late 2023 issued its first formal code of ethics which dictate the conduct of its justices; a fact that followed months of outside pressure and disclosures over luxury trips and socializing with wealthy benefactors, as reported by Reuters.

By end of November, the Judiciary Committee had voted to issue subpoenas for both Leo, a lawyer and co-chair of the Federalist Society who played a critical role for Trump in designing the list of possible candidates of Supreme Court nominees, and for Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican contributor and friend of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Republican senators staged a walkout from that controversial committee proceeding in protest, which got Democrats to vote. A few members from the Republican party also raised concerned about the fairness of the vote, reproaching Democrats for violating established procedures.

FOCUSED QUOTES

“Since July 2023, Leonard Leo has responded to the legitimate oversight requests of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a blanket refusal to cooperate. His outright defiance left the Committee with no other choice but to move forward with compulsory process,” Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an emailed statement on issuing the subpoena to Leo.

Durbin explained that Leo “had the key part in the ethics crisis that consumed the Supreme Court” and had “done nothing but avoid” the committee’s probing.

The email statement from Leo referred to the subpoena as both “unlawful” and “politically motivated” thus he has vowed not to “cave in” to it. In a letter to Durbin, Leo’s attorney also threatened that he would not obey the subpoena.

Taylor Reed, the committee’s Republican minority spokesperson said the subpoena was “not valid”.

CONTEXT

In the case where the subpoena recipient fails to comply, Democrats would be required to gather 60 votes among the 100-member Senate to commence the civil enforcement actions, hence the need to solicit the support of some Republicans in Chamber where Democrats now lead narrowly, as reported by Reuters.

The Democrats, additionally, would be entitled to refer the matter to the Justice Department of the United States, which could be the holder of the criminal contempt proceedings against the subpoena recipients.

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