Good to know, although I suspect that even the progressive activists who have demanded impeachment for Supreme Court justices knew this well enough. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s #2 Democrat in leadership and the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, politely scoffed at the notion of impeaching Clarence Thomas in particular. He told Fox News Sunday‘s Mike Emanuel that the idea was not “realistic,” and he should know:
Dick Durbin is asked what he says to progressives calling to impeach some of the conservatives justices:
“I don’t think it’s realistic. I can tell you there is in my mind a clear conflict of interest when it comes to Justice Thomas…” pic.twitter.com/Vcf6QA42hs
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) July 10, 2022
EMANUEL: As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, what do you say to progressives calling for impeaching some of the conservative justices?
DURBIN: I don’t think it’s realistic. I can tell you, there is, in my mind, a clear conflict of interest when it comes to Justice Thomas and issues related to the January 6th insurrection. His wife is actively involved politically. Going so far as to give direct advice to the president’s chief of staff during this crisis. I would think that Justice Thomas should recuse himself from any decisions that relate to the January 6th episode. Already he was the single vote earlier on a case related to that issue. I think it’s a mistake.
As to whether he’s going to be impeached, that is not realistic. But he should show good judgment.
Note the clever shift from Durbin on this question. He makes Thomas the target over the January 6 committee, which has made Ginni Thomas a ‘person of interest’ of sorts for her efforts to organize a political challenge to the 2020 election. It’s a nonsense argument, at least so far; Ginni Thomas limited her activism to lobbying state elected officials rather than any courtroom challenges, and there’s no law against lobbying elected officials, even for spouses of federal judges. Whether it is wise is another question, of course, but that doesn’t relate to Thomas. (Also worth noting: despite Ginni Thomas’ involvement in political advocacy, the Supreme Court refused to engage in the election challenges.)
But the Ginni Thomas issue isn’t why progressives want the impeachment option on the table. They want Democrats in Congress to impeach the conservative justices on the Supreme Court over the Dobbs decision, with supposed perjury as the high crime at hand. That wouldn’t involve Thomas at all, but instead Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and arguably Chief Justice John Roberts for supposedly lying about their respect for stare decisis.
Two months ago, law professor and analyst Jonathan Turley shot down that absurd argument. Last week, he lamented that the media and politicians keep escalating that argument, especially those of the latter who are most responsible for those justices being on the Supreme Court in the first place:
The media has amplified these extreme calls. In the New York Times, columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote an outline of how Democrats could rein in the high court in a piece titled, “How to Discipline a Rogue Supreme Court.” He wrote that the Supreme Court does not exist above the constitutional system and added that the “rogue” court “cannot shield itself from the power of other branches.” Bouie’s discipline includes impeaching or removing justices as well as packing the court.
Notably, like many others demanding radical changes to the Court, Bouie previously advocated the change that is most responsible for creating the Court’s current composition. Like many liberals, Bouie demanded that the Senate kill the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees.
At the time, some of us warned the Democrats that the move was uniquely short-sighted and that they would rue the day that they took such a moronic step. As predicted, the Democrats soon found themselves in the minority without the protection of the filibuster rule and could not block nominees. They gained comparably little from the change given what they lost, including ultimately Roe v. Wade.
Rather than admit that their prior attack on the filibuster backfired, liberals are now demanding even more radical moves like a bad gambler at Vegas who just keeps doubling down in the hopes of winning a hand.
Durbin may not want to directly take responsibility for his support of Harry Reid’s 2013 nuclear option and its ultimate outcome, but at least he’s not throwing more gasoline on the flames. “He should show good judgment” is an indictment on a lot of people, in that sense. It might even be a mild case of projection for Durbin.
Even so, give Durbin some credit for knowing when to fold ’em. His party is fanning the flames of nihilism against the bulwark of democratic institutions in the hope of using the judiciary as a means to bypass actual democracy. After all, Dobbs didn’t make abortion illegal — it simply returned that policy question to the states and to the people. And for some people, the word “democracy” is as frightening to them as the actual liberties that the Constitution protects.