ICYMI: Senate Introduces End Judge Shopping Act, Judiciary Issues Subpoena to Leonard Leo, Court Term Limits in the Spotlight

Washington, DC – In case you missed it last week, Senate Majority Leader Schumer led the introduction of the End Judge Shopping Act; Chairman Dick Durbin’s Senate Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to Leonard Leo; and Senator Joe Manchin shared his support for Supreme Court term limits. This comes as the Supreme Court prepares to hear its final oral arguments this term and prepares to issue its decisions in a series of cases — including many sent up from the Fifth Circuit, which functions as the shining example of judge shopping under Trump-appointee Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk — that could further strip Americans of our rights and freedoms. 

Stasha Rhodes, Campaign Director of United for Democracy — a coalition of 130+ state and national organizations calling on Congress to fix the broken Supreme Court – issued the following statement:

“Since then-President Donald Trump appointed three justices to the Supreme Court — under the instruction of Leonard Leo and with the support of his network of right-wing mega-donors, strategists, and politicians — we have watched the MAGA supermajority grab power to help those same benefactors get richer and more powerful, leaving the American people to pay the price.

We deserve better. Leonard Leo must answer for his corrupt influence-peddling and work to capture the judiciary and Congress must use its authority to take immediate and bold action to fix the broken Court. The Court should serve as protector of our fundamental freedoms and guardian of our democracy and we appreciate action that moves us closer to those ends.” 

In January, United for Democracy and Court Accountability led 85 advocacy organizations in sending a letter to the Senate to push for immediate action on the Supreme Court. The letter specifically called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to issue the previously authorized subpoenas to Leonard Leo and Harlan Crow.

On Friday, April 12, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) appeared on MSNBC’s Katy Tur Reports and shared his support for Supreme Court term limits: 

Senator Manchin: “Term limits would be great for Congress and for the Senate. For Congress and also, even for the Supreme Court.” 

On Thursday, April 11, The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), issued the subpoena to Leonard Leo that it had approved back in November. for information about Leo’s financial relationships with Supreme Court justices, including Clarence Thomas. Through his attorney, David Rivkin — who penned The Wall Street Journal interview with Justice Alito and who currently has business before the Court — Leo released a statement announcing his refusal to comply. 

Chairman Durbin: “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. For that reason, I have issued a subpoena to Mr. Leo. Mr. Leo has played a central role in the ethics crisis plaguing the Supreme Court and, unlike the other recipients of information requests in this matter, he has done nothing but stonewall the Committee. This subpoena is a direct result of Mr. Leo’s own actions and choices.”

Aide to Chairman Durbin: There are “options available to the Senate to enforce a subpoena in the event of noncompliance.”

On Wednesday, April 10, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and 37 Democratic Senators, released the End Judge Shopping Act

Leader Schumer: “Former President Trump and Leader McConnell stacked the courts with MAGA judges who are striking down laws, freedoms, and regulations left and right. And now right-wing activists are exploiting the current makeup of the judicial system to circumvent the legislation process and overturn the will of the American people. The Judicial Conference published a common-sense policy to randomize case assignment when there are nationwide injunctions involved. The American people need to believe in the fairness of our judicial branch, and this legislation would move our legal system in the right direction. We can’t let unelected judges thrash our democracy.”

Senator Whitehouse: “Judge shopping twists the justice system, often in favor of dark-money-funded plaintiffs with the resources and motivation to select judges who have broadcast their ideological views. Our End Judge Shopping Act backstops the Judicial Conference’s recently announced policy to prevent activist plaintiffs from handpicking their outcomes.”  

Senator Hirono: "Activist plaintiffs should not be able to hand-pick individual judges to overturn laws they dislike, which is why it’s critical we address the issue of judge shopping in our federal courts. The End Judge Shopping Act puts statutory authority behind the Judicial Conference’s recent judge shopping policy and will strengthen trust in our federal justice system by helping to ensure major cases are assigned at random rather than based on the perceived ideological agenda of particular judges.”

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