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Ethical Dilemmas Surrounding Supreme Court Justices’ Campus Visits

by Michael Nguyen
6 comments
Supreme Court Ethics

In recent years, the interactions between Supreme Court justices and donors during their visits to campuses have come under scrutiny, revealing a complex web of ethical dilemmas. These revelations shed light on the extent to which public colleges and universities view these visits as opportunities to generate donations and establish connections with influential donors, some of whom have vested interests before the court.

When Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas headlined a program at McLennan Community College in Texas in 2017, it was more than a speaking engagement. Working alongside prominent conservative lawyer Ken Starr, school officials carefully curated a guest list for a dinner hosted by a wealthy Texas businessman. The goal was to reward school patrons and entice prospective donors with the allure of an audience with Justice Thomas.

Similarly, when Justice Elena Kagan visited the University of Colorado’s law school in 2019, suggestions were made to ensure a “larger donor to staff ratio” for a dinner with her. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s 2017 visit to Clemson University included invitations to donors who had contributed over a million dollars to the South Carolina college.

These interactions between justices and donors have raised concerns about the perceived exchange of access and influence. Lower court federal judges are prohibited from engaging in fundraising and political activity or lending the prestige of their judicial office to advance personal interests. However, the Supreme Court’s narrow definition of fundraising, which primarily considers events that raise more than they cost or explicitly request donations, does not address the issue of soliciting contributions after providing donors with special access.

The lack of a formal code of conduct for Supreme Court justices further complicates matters. Unlike lower court federal judges, who have clear guidelines governing their ethical behavior, Supreme Court justices are expected to adhere to a set of “ethics principles and practices.” This ambiguity has led to questions about the legitimacy of their actions.

The scrutiny surrounding these interactions comes at a challenging moment for the Supreme Court, as its integrity is questioned due to concerns about ethics abuses by justices and polarizing rulings. A 2022 survey indicated a 50-year low in public trust in the court.

In the absence of a formal code of conduct, the justices’ actions continue to be scrutinized, raising broader questions about transparency, accountability, and the potential impact of these interactions on the court’s impartiality. As the debate over ethics and influence surrounding campus visits by Supreme Court justices intensifies, it remains to be seen whether reforms or increased transparency will be implemented to address these ethical dilemmas.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Supreme Court Ethics

What are the ethical dilemmas surrounding Supreme Court justices’ campus visits?

The ethical dilemmas surrounding Supreme Court justices’ campus visits revolve around the potential for justices to be used as tools for fundraising and influence by colleges and universities. These visits often involve interactions with influential donors, some of whom have interests before the court, raising concerns about access and influence.

How do public colleges and universities view Supreme Court visits?

Public colleges and universities often view Supreme Court visits as opportunities to generate donations and establish connections with influential donors. They carefully curate guest lists for events, including dinners and private receptions, where justices are in attendance, aiming to reward school patrons and attract prospective donors.

What is the Supreme Court’s definition of fundraising?

The Supreme Court’s definition of fundraising is relatively narrow, primarily focusing on events that raise more money than they cost or where guests are explicitly asked for donations. This definition does not adequately address the issue of soliciting contributions later, after providing donors with special access.

Do Supreme Court justices have a formal code of conduct?

Unlike lower court federal judges who have a formal code of conduct governing their ethical behavior, Supreme Court justices are expected to adhere to a set of “ethics principles and practices.” The lack of a formal code of conduct has raised questions about transparency and accountability.

Why is the Supreme Court’s conduct under scrutiny?

The Supreme Court’s conduct is under scrutiny due to concerns about ethics abuses by justices and polarizing court rulings. Additionally, a 2022 survey showed a significant decline in public trust in the court, further intensifying the scrutiny and debate over its actions and ethical standards.

What are the potential consequences of these ethical dilemmas?

The potential consequences of these ethical dilemmas include a loss of public trust in the Supreme Court, questions about the court’s impartiality, and calls for reforms or increased transparency in justices’ interactions during campus visits. The impact on the court’s reputation and credibility is a significant concern.

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6 comments

LegalScholar99 November 13, 2023 - 9:02 pm

lack of code of conduct is a big issue here. da court needs 2 step up its game, no doubt.

Reply
StudentActivist November 14, 2023 - 3:49 am

this is y we need more transperancy n accoutability in da court, its a mess.

Reply
ConcernedCitizen89 November 14, 2023 - 5:24 am

so dis is lik a big deal, rite? like dem justices shudnt b doin dis stuff, its fishy.

Reply
CampusObserver November 14, 2023 - 6:51 am

omg, who new justices did dis stuff? its a real eye-opener, n makes u wonder abt der impartiality.

Reply
PoliticJunkie November 14, 2023 - 11:28 am

im not surprisd, deyre all politicans in robes anyways. just playin da game.

Reply
LegalEagle23 November 14, 2023 - 4:55 pm

yeah, its pretty shady. jusices shud no beter dan 2 get involvd in fundraisin n stuf like dis.

Reply

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