In the days following Schumer’s statements at an abortion rights rally outside the court building – comments some described as a threat – complaints were sent to the Senate Ethics Committee and the New York bar’s Grievance Committee, alleging that the Democratic leader’s remarks violated ethics rules.
“At a minimum, Attorney/Senator Schumer’s statements appear to be improper conduct that reflects upon his character and fitness to practice law in New York,” attorney Joseph Gioconda wrote in a letter sent Monday to New York’s Grievance Committee for the Second Judicial District, where Schumer is admitted.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Center for Reproductive Rights as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case focusing on a Louisiana abortion law, Schumer had issued a warning to the two justices appointed by President Trump.
"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. "You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions."
Chief Justice John Roberts was quick to respond, calling Schumer’s words “inappropriate” and “dangerous,” as Schumer reacted by accusing Roberts of being biased in his response.
The National Legal Policy Center, a right-leaning nonprofit organization, filed complaints with the New York bar and the Senate Ethics Committee Friday, seeking discipline both for Schumer’s statements at the rally and for calling into question Roberts’ motives for his response.
Their complaint claims that Schumer violated Senate ethics rules by engaging in “improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate.” The NLPC also alleged that Schumer violated New York’s Rules of Professional Conduct through “conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
The NLPC referenced condemnation from conservatives and liberals alike, citing a critical tweet from Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe that called Schumer’s language “inexcusable,” as well as condemnation on the Senate floor by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said, “There is nothing to call this except a threat.”
Schumer responded to McConnell by admitting that he "should not have used the words I used," and that "they didn't come out the way I intended to." Schumer did not apologize but excused himself by saying, “I'm from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language.”
The NLPC’s complaint asserts that Schumer’s statement was unsatisfactory.
“It strains credulity to believe that, regardless of his Brooklyn pedigree, Sen. Schumer, who is a Harvard-educated lawyer, Senator minority leader, and vocal opponent of both Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, did not intend to choose the exact words he spoke as he turned and pointed to the Supreme Court behind him to further emphasize his point,” the complaint said. “In short, his non-apology is a lame excuse for inexcusable conduct.”
“The Senate must immediately reprimand, if not censure, Sen. Schumer for his outrageous and dangerous attack on Supreme Court Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh,” said the complaint, which also claimed that Schumer’s statements may have constituted “improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate.”
Both Landmark’s and NLPC’s complaints also alleged possible violations of federal law for threatening an officer of the court.
These complaints follow the introduction of a resolution from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., calling for Schumer to be censured, and a letter to the Senate signed by dozens of well-known conservative leaders calling for censure.