Supreme Court should meet same standards applied to other judges

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  • Dale Eisman

Washington, DC–Common Cause joined Tuesday in calls for quick action on new legislation to require greater transparency and ethical accountability for members of the Supreme Court.

“Our highest court should be held to the highest standards,” said Arn H. Pearson, an attorney and Common Cause’s vice president for programs. “In doing so, Congress will help the justices take an important step to build public confidence in the impartial administration of justice.”

Pearson’s comments came at a press conference as Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Ct., announced the introduction of a bill to extend the U.S. Judicial Conference Code of Conduct for judges to members of the Supreme Court. The high court has enforced the code on federal district and circuit court judges but exempts itself.

Murphy’s legislation also would require the court to develop a process to consider claims that particular justices have conflicts of interest that require them to disqualify, or recuse themselves from certain cases.

Common Cause has raised conflict of interests questions about the participation of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in a landmark campaign finance case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided last year. The group has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether the justices participated in political strategy and fundraising “seminars” sponsored by Koch Industries, an energy and manufacturing conglomerate that was a major beneficiary of the Citizens United ruling.

The Citizens United decision freed Koch and other corporations and unions to spend as much money as they like on efforts to influence elections. In the wake of the ruling, more than $300 million in “independent” money flowed into last fall’s Congressional campaigns, roughly half of it from undisclosed donors.