By Sofia Hosseinzadeh
WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court announced Monday a new code of conduct in response to a growing public belief in a lack of faith in the Supreme Court justice’s capability to follow ethics guidelines, with CNN suggesting it was largely because critics are questioning recent behavior by Justice Clarence Thomas.
“The absence of a Code… has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules. To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.” the justices explained.
Democrats in Congress also put pressure on the Supreme Court to begin regulating justice ethics, according to CNN, noting plans by Democrats to pass legislation enforcing an ethics reform in addition to investigations by the Senate Judiciary Committee to “hold a vote to authorize subpoenas for two major conservative players close to conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.”
The new ethics code declares, “A Justice should not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.”
According to The New York Times, Justice Thomas has received “vacations on a superyacht” and “private school tuition” from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow, all unreported by the justice, raising fears about possible ethics violations.
On top of these benefits from Crow, Justice Thomas has also obtained other unreported benefits through his affiliation with the Horatio Alger Association, some by “major donors to conservative causes with broad policy and political interests and much at stake in Supreme Court decisions,” the NY Times added.
Revolving Door Project Executive Director Jeff Hauser responded to this new code, arguing, “This unenforceable public relations document serves absolutely no purpose other than to permit the media to revert to pretending that our unaccountable and unethical supreme court retains legitimacy.”
The conduct of behavior exhibited by Justice Clarence Thomas, in particular, has “long been at odds with any pretense to any remotely serious standard of ethics,” Hauser writes.
The justices Monday asserted in the new code that they will “maintain and observe high standards of conduct in order to preserve the integrity and independence of the United States,” a statement Hauser questions.
He urged the media to continue their vigilance in investigating and reporting on the actions of the Supreme Court justices to ensure their proper conduct and impartial decision making.
“Today’s Code of Conduct represents a big test for the nation’s media and legal elites. Will a risible PR stunt succeed in relieving pressure off a Supreme Court that is rightly widely deemed to be in crisis? People who care about the rule of law must hope those who lead our national coverage about the Supreme Court are not readily co-opted by lawyering that, truth be told, is not even especially slick or sophisticated,” Hauser concluded.