Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, during her speech at the University of Minnesota Law School, expressed her willingness to endorse a code of conduct for the Supreme Court. She addressed recent concerns about justices not meeting ethical standards and stated that it would be prudent to implement such guidelines. Barrett suggested that the justices widely support principles akin to those enforced for lower court judges.
Time For a Code
She emphasized the unanimous agreement among all nine justices regarding the imperative of adhering to the highest ethical standards possible. Barrett’s statement signified her recognition of the need for greater transparency and accountability within the Supreme Court.
Notably, Barrett did not directly address the ethics issue during a previous public event in August. However, she did highlight the court’s adherence to existing regulations, citing the mandatory annual filing of financial disclosure reports by federal judges. This move reflects her commitment to upholding the judiciary’s integrity and ethics.
Amy Coney Barrett refrained from addressing the court’s delay in adopting a code, despite congressional and ethics experts’ urging. When asked about it, she replied, “That’s something I can’t really speak for the court about or make any sort of guess about.”
Bending the Rules
Under scrutiny, the court faced allegations of ethics breaches following an April ProPublica report exposing Justice Clarence Thomas’ undisclosed trips from Republican donor Harlan Crow. Thomas defended his actions, asserting they were “personal hospitality,” exempt from disclosure under the previous judicial rules—rules subsequently revised.
Addressing the ethics issue has garnered support from members of Congress, with some advocating for legislation. Alternatively, the court itself could tackle the matter by implementing its ethics code.
Several justices have expressed their endorsement of a new ethics code. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan voiced her approval, considering it a positive development, while conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh expressed optimism about taking “concrete steps” soon.
Chief Justice John Roberts conveyed in May that the justices are actively exploring avenues to uphold the highest ethical standards.
In April, the justices issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to ethical principles. However, this announcement fell short of quelling criticism and concerns.
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