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.

Common Cause first sounded the alarm regarding Supreme Court ethics more than a decade ago when we exposed unreported travel by then-Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Thomas. Our research also revealed that Justice Thomas for years failed to report his wife’s income – much of it from highly political, conservative organizations.

Statement of Marilyn Carpinteyro, Common Cause Interim Co-President

The U.S. Supreme Court is in desperate need of a binding and permanent ethics code. While today’s announcement is a small step in the right direction, this code of ethics for Justices does not go nearly far enough, as it lacks enforcement and accountability. Congress must continue to move forward with legislation to create a binding code of ethics for the nation’s highest court.

It is telling that the Supreme Court announced its proposed new ethics code just days before the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote to issue subpoenas to wealthy donors at the center of some of the recent Supreme Court scandals.

We strongly urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to follow through in its effort to subpoena witnesses and to get to the full truth behind the scandals. The American people deserve nothing less. Likewise, Congress must move forward to pass legislation to pass a permanent and binding code of ethics for the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act has already passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee under the leadership of Chairman Dick Durbin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. We hope this long-needed legislation will be passed in both the Senate and the House in short order.

Time and again the U.S. Supreme Court has shown itself incapable of policing its own conduct. The time has come for Congress to act to ensure that the Justices charged with interpreting our Constitution are held to the same ethical standard as every other judge in the nation.