Demonstrators rally outside U.S. Supreme Court

Demonstrators gather outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders: Right-Wing Supreme Court 'Out of Control' and Must Be Stopped

"At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, billionaire control of our political system, and major threats to the foundations of American democracy, it is clear to me that we need real Supreme Court reform."

In the aftermath of the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court's potentially deadly rampage against federal regulators, its ruling in support of the criminalization of homelessness, and its decision to grant former President Donald Trump sweeping immunity from criminal prosecution, Sen. Bernie Sanders said late Monday that nation's highest judicial body is "out of control" and must be reined in before it can inflict even more damage.

"Over the years, among other disastrous rulings, this right-wing court has given us Citizens United, which created a corrupt, billionaire-dominated political system," Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. "It overturned Roe v. Wade, removing women's constitutional right to control their own bodies. Last week, the court chose to criminalize poverty by banning homeless encampments in public spaces—forcing more poor people into the cycle of debt and poverty."

"With the Chevron case," the senator continued, "they have made it far more difficult for the government to address the enormous crises we face in terms of climate change, public health, workers' rights, and many other areas. And, today, the court ruled in favor of broad presidential immunity, making it easier for Trump and other politicians to break the law without accountability."

"A strong, enforceable code of ethics is a start, but just a start. We'll need much more than that."

Such far-reaching and devastating decisions, Sanders argued, highlight the extent to which unelected Supreme Court justices—with the backing of right-wing billionaires and corporations bent on sweeping away all regulatory constraints—have arrogated policymaking authority to themselves with disastrous consequences for U.S. society and the world.

"If these conservative justices want to make public policy, they should simply quit the Supreme Court and run for political office," said Sanders. "At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, billionaire control of our political system, and major threats to the foundations of American democracy, it is clear to me that we need real Supreme Court reform. A strong, enforceable code of ethics is a start, but just a start. We'll need much more than that."

Sanders did not make specific reform recommendations beyond an ethics code in his statement Monday, but he has previously suggested rotating judges off the Supreme Court—which would effectively end lifetime appointments.

The Vermont senator's progressive colleagues floated a range of possible actions following the high court's presidential immunity ruling on Monday, including adding seats to the Supreme Court and impeaching individual justices.

"Today's decision, along with the court's decision to overturn Chevron, is an assault on the separation of powers under the Constitution," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in response to the court's ruling in Corner Post Inc. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

"An extremist Supreme Court stacked by Donald Trump has snatched power away from an elected Congress and handed lawmaking power over to a few far-right unelected judges," Warren added. "This Supreme Court is undermining the foundations of our democracy; Congress must restore balance by adding more justices to the court."

The Supreme Court's recent flurry of rulings has already thrown existing cases into chaos and opened the floodgates to new corporate-backed lawsuits against longstanding federal regulations.

The Washington Postreported Sunday that "mere hours after the Supreme Court sharply curbed the power of federal agencies" by scrapping the Chevron doctrine, "conservatives and corporate lobbyists began plotting how to harness the favorable ruling in a redoubled quest to whittle down climate, finance, health, labor, and technology regulations in Washington."

"The National Association of Manufacturers, a lobbying group whose board of directors includes top executives from Dow, Caterpillar, ExxonMobil, and Johnson & Johnson, specifically called attention to what it described as regulatory overreach at the [Securities and Exchange Commission] and the Environmental Protection Agency," the Post noted.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest corporate lobbying organization, and the American Petroleum Institute were also among the big business groups applauding the fall of Chevron, fueling calls for Congress to codify the doctrine into federal law.

The American Prospect's Hassan Ali Kanu wrote Tuesday that the high court's latest term has "demonstrated how lacking our system is in terms of safeguards that can prevent or correct the Supreme Court when it oversteps its authority or engages in unjustified exercises of power."

"President Joe Biden's commission to explore Supreme Court reform produced a number of viable and sensible options," Kanu continued. "Congress could curtail or end judicial review, the power the court aggregated to itself to exclusively interpret the Constitution."

"Even more modest proposals could further democratize the Court and judiciary, like prohibiting them from declining to apply laws passed by Congress unless they have at least a supermajority vote; or implementing sortition, random assignment, and rotation into the process of appointing or assigning judges to the Supreme Court," he added. "At this point, when a six-member majority is literally declaring a former president who appointed three of them to be functionally above the law, against all prevailing opinion, scholarship, analysis, and experience, the case for court reform couldn't be clearer."

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