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Senators Demand Supreme Court Abide by Ethical Standards Similar to Other Government Branches

by Ryan Lee
5 comments
ethical standards

In response to investigative reports by Big Big News on the Supreme Court, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has called for the justices to align their conduct with the ethical standards upheld by other branches of government. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) emphasized the importance of establishing basic standards akin to those followed by other government branches, stating that it would instill greater confidence in the integrity of the Supreme Court. He made these remarks while attending the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, as part of the U.S. delegation.

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The Associated Press (AP) published a series of stories revealing various ethical concerns surrounding the justices’ activities. These reports disclosed that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, with the assistance of her staff, has promoted book sales through college visits over the past decade. Additionally, universities have leveraged justices’ visits as a means to attract financial contributions by arranging events with affluent donors. Moreover, the justices have undertaken teaching trips to attractive locations, with limited classroom instruction, sponsored by external parties.

These recent revelations follow a string of stories over the past six months that have raised ethical concerns regarding the justices’ actions. Senator Durbin, along with other lawmakers in Washington, has announced plans for a vote on legislation next week that would require the Supreme Court to adopt an ethics code. Although the passage of this measure is unlikely, it serves as a signal of discontent with the current state of affairs within the court.

Unlike other branches of government, the nation’s highest court operates without an explicit ethics code. Instead, it adheres to a set of foundational “ethics principles and practices,” as described by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Responding to the AP reports, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), also a member of the Judiciary Committee, referred to them as “powerful reports.” He regarded them as an incremental indictment of a Supreme Court seemingly unaccountable for ethical transgressions. Blumenthal stressed the importance of Chief Justice Roberts considering these reports for the sake of the court and the country. Failure to acknowledge the need for an ethics code, according to Blumenthal, could jeopardize the viability of the Supreme Court as an institution.

On the other hand, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), another Judiciary Committee member, believes that the ethics issue should be left to the court. Cornyn sees the Democrats’ pursuit of ethics reform as part of a longstanding attack on the court by the left, which he believes undermines their accomplishments achieved through judicial action over the years. Cornyn stated that the Supreme Court is a co-equal branch of government and asserted that Congress lacks jurisdiction over it. He characterized the narrative of an out-of-control court requiring salvation from Congress as a false one.

Kathleen Clark, a law professor specializing in legal ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, remarked that the recent reporting exposes the extent to which ethics problems at the Supreme Court transcend individual justices. Clark described it as an institutional problem rather than an issue confined to specific justices like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, as previously highlighted in the media.


Reporting from Vilnius, Lithuania, contributed by Megerian. Additional reporting by Kevin Freking in Washington.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about ethical standards

What is the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for regarding the Supreme Court?

The Senate Judiciary Committee is urging the Supreme Court to align its conduct with the ethical standards followed by other branches of the government. They believe that establishing basic standards would enhance confidence in the integrity of the Court.

What were the findings of the investigative reports on the Supreme Court?

The investigative reports revealed several ethical concerns surrounding the activities of the Supreme Court justices. These concerns included Justice Sonia Sotomayor promoting book sales through college visits, universities using justices’ visits to attract financial contributions, and justices taking expenses-paid teaching trips with limited classroom instruction.

Is the Supreme Court currently governed by an ethics code?

No, the Supreme Court does not operate with a specific ethics code. Instead, they follow a set of foundational “ethics principles and practices” as defined by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Is there any proposed legislation regarding ethics codes for the Supreme Court?

Lawmakers in Washington have announced plans for legislation that would require the Supreme Court to adopt an ethics code. However, the passage of this legislation is considered unlikely.

How do Senators from different parties view the call for ethics reform in the Supreme Court?

Some Senators, such as Senator Dick Durbin, support the call for ethics reform and believe it is necessary for maintaining the Court’s integrity. Others, like Senator John Cornyn, feel that ethics issues should be left to the Court and view the pursuit of ethics reform as an attack on the Court by the left.

What impact could the lack of an ethics code have on the Supreme Court?

Critics argue that without an ethics code, the Court may face ethical breaches without being held accountable. Some Senators and legal experts believe that the Court’s credibility and viability as an institution could be undermined if it continues to ignore the need for an ethics code.

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5 comments

Bookworm47 July 12, 2023 - 8:16 am

im shocked! i had no idea bout justices doin book sales & takin fancy trips instead of teaching. somethin needs 2 change in da court!

Reply
PoliticalJunkie22 July 12, 2023 - 8:32 am

dis just seems like an attack on the court by da left. congress shouldnt interfere with the supreme court. they doin fine without an ethics code!

Reply
LegalEagle25 July 12, 2023 - 2:15 pm

its abt time someone callz out da supreme court on their lack of ethics. an institution like that shud have proper rules in place. kudos to the senators takin a stand!

Reply
CourtWatcher101 July 12, 2023 - 2:41 pm

i see both sides here. maybe da court needs a bit more accountability, but i dont want congress meddlin in their affairs. it’s a tough call.

Reply
Lil_Linguist89 July 12, 2023 - 10:26 pm

wow, dis article showz sum big concerns bout da supreme court. dey shud follow ethik standards like da other government branches. makes sense 2 me!

Reply

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