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Judicial Ethics

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SCOTUS Ethics Code a First Step That Congress Must Build On  

This afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would adopt a code of ethics. The move follows a series of scandals involving Supreme Court Justices that came to light in recent months. The announcement also comes at a time when the Senate Judiciary Committee has already moved forward legislation to establish an ethics code for the Supreme Court and is scheduled to vote this week on subpoenas for witnesses at the heart of some of the recent scandals.

Senate Judiciary to Issue Subpoenas to Donors Involved in SCOTUS Ethics Scandals

"The Senate Judiciary Committee, faced with stonewalling by those who paid for unreported luxury junkets, must get to the truth by using its subpoena power."

Los Alamos Daily Post: Officials And Organizations Express Condolences On Passing Of Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson

Common Cause New Mexico State Director Heather Ferguson: “He was one of the strongest Governors New Mexico ever had. While he might be remembered more for his diplomacy and the economic advances he brought to New Mexico (the film industry, the Spaceport, the Rail Runner to name a few) we remember him for his 2007 Ethics Reform Task Force. It spurred so much legislation over the subsequent decades—a Gift Ban, Public Financing of the PRC and state judicial races, limits on campaign contributions and an ethics commission. He was a champion you wanted to have in your corner—with courage, deft negation skills and a fighting spirit. We will miss him.” Former Executive Director Viki Harrison of the New Mexico Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty & Founding Advisory Committee Members of Death Penalty Action: “Governor Richardson changed the course of history in New Mexico when he signed the bill to abolish the death penalty in March 2009. He became a champion of abolition and helped in many other places over the last decade. I lost a mentor and a friend and am devasted by this news – just messaged with him a couple of months ago. Sending much love to Barbara and the rest of the family.”

Washington Post: Justice Thomas details jet travel, property deal with billionaire

He described Crow as a “personal friend,” according to the disclosure form, one of several from the 1990s that is no longer publicly available but was provided to The Washington Post by watchdog organizations Common Cause and Documented.

Wisconsin Law Journal: Liberal Supreme Court justices make sweeping changes to enhance transparency and accountability

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal last week, Executive Director Jay Heck of the non-partisan government accountability group Common Cause noted that Wisconsin ranked as the 47th worst in the nation, according to a Center for American Progress study for judicial ethics recusal rules. The study looked at the strength of recusal rules for judges in every state, ranking each state 1-50. “Even Cook County (in Chicago) has stronger recusal rules for judges, which is a pretty low bar given Chicago’s reputation,” Heck said. “Chicago has always been the thing we don’t want to be. It’s the bar you always want to surpass in terms of politics, ethics and corruption,” Heck added. Citing a Marquette University Law School poll on reduced confidence in Wisconsin’s courts, Heck said, “It’s reasonable to open to the public how a court operates, especially with the low regard noted in Marquette Law School polls. Wisconsin courts used to be highly regarded, but that has dissipated over the years, as big money has inundated elections,” Heck said.

Wisconsin Examiner: What a temper tantrum by the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s chief justice tells us

“Look, the conservatives sowed this,” Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause-Wisconsin, observes of the bad blood on the Court. “They sowed discord.” “What’s happening now is a direct result of conservatives’ decision they’d take all this underground and not meet in public,” says Heck. Given their track record, “If conservatives were the new majority there would be no question about what they’d do,” Heck adds. “They’d name a conservative chief justice and say, ‘We have a 4-3 majority, try to stop us.’” Unlike the conservatives who pushed out Abrahamson, however, the new progressive majority has stopped short of trying to replace Ziegler. Still, Heck has heard from people who worry that the new majority is being too bold and assertive. “Progressives are not really like that. We’re always saying, ‘Let’s do the right thing and the fair thing,’” he says.

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