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Democrats Question Supreme Court Justices as Session Begins

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia confer before testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

In an interview, Blumenauer said he’s “increasingly disturbed by the information that’s coming out about the increasing appearance of politicization on the part of the court.”

Asked whether he feared his party would suffer political consequences from the latest push, Blumenauer said no.

“I have a hard time thinking the Supreme Court is somehow going to be traumatized by having procedures that require them to follow [the same] procedures as the rest of the federal judiciary,” he said. “I can’t imagine that would spook them and change the outcomes.”

The Alliance for Justice and Common Cause also sent a letter to the Judicial Conference about the same issue. “The conduct of some of the justices calls into question the integrity of the judiciary,” said Nan Aron, president of the left-leaning organization.

The Supreme Court began its new session Monday by taking up a case challenging cuts to Medicaid in California. The line-up of hot-button cases is not expected to slow, including ones that touch on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Clean Water Act and the constitutionality of the Federal Communications Commission’s ban on indecent content on television and radio.

Still, a suit challenging the health care law will be the main event and could be decided by the court just months before the 2012 elections.

The high stakes of the narrowly divided court came up at a political fundraiser in Rhode Island last week, when first lady Michelle Obama hailed her husband for appointing two female justices and reminded supporters not to forget “the impact that their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come.”

That sentiment appeals to both sides. The conservative Judicial Watch has reviewed the role of Justice Elena Kagan in the health care law when she was Obama’s solicitor general. The group has stayed mum on whether Kagan should recuse herself from deliberations when the court considers the law, but other conservative activists have continued their own drumbeat.

Smith has also looked into the matter, asking Holder to review whether Kagan was involved in building a legal strategy for the health care law. That review is pending.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, criticized Democrats for going after Thomas in what he called “a coordinated and unprecedented effort to pressure sitting Supreme Court justices.” Still, Fitton said the debate mostly “is something the American public won’t necessarily follow.”

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