Widen Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Accept Code of Ethics

The U.S. Supreme Court is under increasing pressure to adopt binding ethics rules as it emerges that at least two of nine justices failed to file a full report on their financial activities. are exposed.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan duo of senators called on courts to adopt a code of conduct, noting that the High Court is the only element of the federal government and is not subject to ethical requirements, including lower federal courts. announced the introduction of a law to

“A healthy democracy needs trust: trust in the system, trust in the institutions, trust in the leaders,” said independent Senator Angus King, who is participating in the Democratic caucuses. rice field. “Americans deserve confidence that every part of their government, especially the country’s Supreme Court, is acting ethically.”

Republican Sen. Lisa Markowski said, “American public trust in the Supreme Court is at an all-time low. Americans have made clear their concerns about transparency, or lack thereof, by the Supreme Court and its judges.” It is important that the public has complete trust that their institutions are functioning, including the

Unreported Gifts and Sales

Criticism of the High Court’s lack of a binding code of conduct has been a recurring feature of reform debates over the years.

Earlier this month, the news agency ProPublica revealed that for decades, Judge Clarence Thomas has accepted a lavish vacation from a billionaire conservative political donor named Harlan Crow. My travels included traveling on private jets and superyachts and staying in various luxury hotels around the world.

Thomas was appointed to the court by former President George HW Bush in 1991 and is considered the most conservative judge.

In response to talks about vacations, Thomas believes accepting the hospitality of a personal friend does not have to be reported. He acknowledged that this was a requirement and said he would disclose them in the future.

A later news story, also from ProPublica, revealed that Thomas did not report a real estate transaction in which Crowe purchased several properties from Thomas’ family. One property was the house where Thomas’ mother lived. She continued to live in the property after Crow bought it and underwent extensive renovations.

Focus on Gorsuch

On Tuesday, news website Politico reported that Judge Neil Gorsuch sold his Colorado vacation home ownership to Brian Duffy in 2017. Gorsuch was appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Donald Trump in 2017. it was done.

The house has been on the market for two years, and the sale was completed just days after Gorsuch was sworn in as a member of the court. Gorsuch, a member of the court’s conservative majority, did not identify Duffy as the purchaser when he reported the sale in a financial disclosure in 2018.

In media interviews, Duffy denied there were any improprieties in the transaction, stating that he did not know Gorsuch was part owner of the property until he made the purchase decision. and said he had never practiced with the High Court.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Gorsuch has not commented on the sale or his decision not to identify Duffy as the buyer.

Some Republicans have suggested the story is a left-wing effort to reshape the courtroom, as the revelations about the reporting failure involve two of the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices. increase.

After the first article on Thomas was published, Senator John Cornyn tweeted: The latest effort is to defame Judge Thomas. ”

Roberts refuses to testify

The announcement of the new law comes a day after Chief Justice John Roberts declined an invitation from Senator Richard Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to testify at a hearing on court ethical standards. rice field.

In a letter to Durbin, Roberts said he “politely declines” the offer to appear.

Roberts said, “As might be expected in light of the issue of separation of powers and the importance of maintaining judicial independence, testimony by the Chief Justice of the United States to the Senate Judiciary Committee is extremely rare. ‘ said.

Instead, the Chief Justice added a five-page “Statement of Ethical Principles and Practices,” which all nine judges now agree with.

Durbin said the scheduled hearings will proceed with or without Supreme Court representatives.

“I have extended an invitation to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or someone he designates to try to include the Court in this discussion,” he said in a statement. “But make no mistake: Supreme Court ethics reform must happen regardless of whether the court participates in the process.”

bad public perception

The move to impose ethical requirements on courts comes at a time when public perception of the body is declining. A poll conducted this week by National Public Radio, PBS NewsHour and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion found that 62% of Americans have little or no trust in the courts. As of April 2019, that figure was just 36%.

The same poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans, and a majority of Republicans and Democrats, believe the office of judges in courts should be fixed rather than tenured. I was.

Much of the recent change in court attitudes is likely due to last year’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade’s nearly 50-year-old ruling that guaranteed women the right to have an abortion. The decision was so unpopular with the majority of Americans that it led many states to enact laws severely restricting access to abortion.

File – Supreme Court Justices: Bottom row, left to right: Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan. Top row, left to right, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Ketanji Brown Jackson, October 7, 2022.

The ideological composition of the courts has also changed dramatically in recent years. In his four years in office, after two judges died and one retired, Trump was able to place his three new judges on the court. As a result, the composition of the court, which was slightly dominated by liberals, changed to a solid conservative majority of 6 to 3.

Ethics Key to Public Trust

Paul Finkelman, a legal historian and visiting professor of Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell at Gustavus Adolphus College, told VOA that the lack of an enforceable code of ethics undermines public perception of the courts. Told.

“A court’s credibility, its ability to be accepted by the American public, must be based on high ethical standards,” Finkelman said. “But when a judge appears clearly inadequate, it makes it very difficult for the American public to accept the court’s decision.”

Finkelman said he thought Roberts had made a mistake by refusing to engage in a code-of-ethics debate with the Senate and questioned his claims about separation of powers.

“If he does appear in the Senate, he is not going to file a case in court. “This is not a matter of separation of powers.”

Finkelman added, “I think Roberts is making a grave mistake.”

https://www.voanews.com/a/calls-widen-for-us-supreme-court-to-accept-code-of-ethics-/7067799.html Widen Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Accept Code of Ethics

Exit mobile version