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Judicial Ethics

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Common Cause Urges Vote on SCOTUS Ethics Bill as Justices File Financials

Today, as Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are expected to file their financial disclosure reports, Common Cause is urging the full U.S. Senate to debate and vote on the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act (S. 359). In a letter today to Senate leadership, Common Cause emphasized that the lack of a binding code of ethics has led to a string of scandals involving unreported gifts and expensive vacations that have undermined public faith in the nation’s highest court.

Money & Influence 04.29.2024

Wisconsin Examiner (Op-Ed): To be truly fair Wisconsin courts must be free from big political money

The unprecedented and obscenely high amount of political money being raised and spent in Wisconsin Supreme Court elections is a fairly new and horrific development in our state. It wasn’t always this way here and it cannot and should not continue. 

Vanity Fair: Jack Smith’s One Job Is to Take Donald Trump to Trial Before the Election. (The Supreme Court May Not Let Him.)

One voting rights group, Common Cause, had the wherewithal to spell out, in no uncertain terms, that the justices are already tipping the scales in favor of Trump and that the public would be well within its right to view the justices as partisan hacks if they drag things out any further. “If this Court’s delay in disposing of this appeal has the result of preventing the case from going to trial prior to the election—or going to trial at all—it would give many Americans the sense that the Court, through its arbitrary and unexplained management of its own docket, has played partisan favorites in the midst of a heated presidential election,” the group wrote in a public filing.

Raw Story: 'Favor Mr. Trump': Latest filing gives SCOTUS stern warning on presidential immunity case

Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, issued the warning Thursday in an amicus brief filed to the upcoming Supreme Court hearing that has brought special counsel Jack Smith’s election interference case to a standstill. “This Court is at serious risk of being perceived as attempting to influence the 2024 election in favor of Mr. Trump,” the group writes. “It should do everything possible now to avoid that impression, which would be highly detrimental to this Court’s reputation for neutrality and fairness. Time is of the essence.” Common Cause's 37-page brief condemns the nation’s highest court scheduling decisions they argue came to Trump’s legal rescue “against the public interest." Specifically, the group points to the Supreme Court’s speedy ruling on his 14th Amendment insurrectionist ban challenge — a ruling that allowed Trump to remain on Colorado’s ballot — and the scheduling of his presidential immunity hearing until April 25, the last day possible.

Voting & Elections 02.24.2024

San Francisco Chronicle/CalMatters: Why Does California Elect Local Judges?

That's concerning to Jonathan Mehta Stein, executive director of Common Cause California, an advocacy group that focuses on fair elections and representation: "Our judges are supposed to be above the fray of politics and totally unbiased in their decision-making," he wrote in an email. "Whether or not that's actually true, it certainly does not help public perception of the judiciary to force our judges to raise special interest dollars, make campaign promises, and so forth." He added that even very engaged voters struggle to find information on these contests.

ProPublica: The Judiciary Has Policed Itself for Decades. It Doesn’t Work.

Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, revealed that Thomas didn’t report that source of income on his financial disclosures, despite a legal requirement to do so. The New York Times also raised the possibility that Thomas may have flown on Crow’s jet at least three times. If Thomas had, in fact, taken those flights and Crow footed the bill, the justice failed to disclose that, too. The conference told the lawmakers and Common Cause that the Financial Disclosure Committee would look into both issues. Early in 2012, the committee held a meeting. Some of the judges in attendance expected a serious conversation about how to handle the matter. If there is “reasonable cause” to believe a judge might have intentionally falsified a disclosure or omitted information, the conference, through the Financial Disclosure Committee, is supposed to refer the case to the attorney general. Instead, the committee’s chair, a Kentucky district judge and President Bill Clinton appointee named Joseph H. McKinley Jr., said immediately that he had decided to end the inquiry, explaining that Thomas already amended his filings to include Ginni’s source of income, according to one of the judges in the room.

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