Schumer Hit With Mounting Ethics Complaints for Supreme Court Comment

March 11, 2020 Updated: March 11, 2020
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been hit with several ethics complaints over his remarks critical of two conservative Supreme Court justices that some interpreted as a threat.

Complaints were filed with the Senate Ethics Committee and the New York bar’s Grievance Committee following Schumer’s comments at an abortion rally outside the court building last week.

It came after Schumer said on March 4 that Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who were both appointed by President Donald Trump, would “pay the price” if they upheld a law in Louisiana that mandates that abortion doctors should be preapproved to check their patients into nearby hospitals. Some interpreted his words as a threat or call to action for violence against the two.

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said to protesters who were gathered in front of the Supreme Court in Washington last week. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Some allege that Schumer’s statements were in violation of ethics rules.

In a letter sent Monday to New York’s Grievance Committee for the Second Judicial District, where Schumer is admitted, attorney Joseph Gioconda wrote that Schumer’s remarks “appear to be improper conduct that reflects upon his character and fitness to practice law in New York.”

Meanwhile on March 6, the New York bar and the Senate Ethics Committee received complaints from the non-profit organization National Legal Policy Center.

The group alleged Schumer violated ethics rules by engaging in “improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate,” Fox News reported. The complaint also alleged Schumer’s conduct was “prejudicial to the administration of justice,” and that he therefore violated New York’s Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Senate Ethics Committee also received another complaint from the Landmark Legal Foundation on March 5, which asked the senate to “immediately reprimand, if not censure” Schumer for his “outrageous and dangerous attack” on Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

The complaint alleged Schumer’s comments may have constituted “improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate.”

A day after Schumer made the remarks, Schumer apologized, saying: “I should not have used the words I used yesterday. They didn’t come out the way I intended to.”

“My point was that there would be political consequences—political consequences—for President Trump and Senate Republicans if the Supreme Court, with the newly confirmed justices, stripped away a woman’s right to choose,” he remarked on the Senate floor.

“Of course I didn’t intend to suggest anything other than political and public opinion consequences for the Supreme Court and it is a gross distortion to imply otherwise,” he added. 

The minority leader was admonished by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other senators. At least one Republican, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), said he would attempt to censure Schumer.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.