UNITED STATES NEWS

The Supreme Court says it is adopting a code of ethics for the first time

Nov 13, 2023, 5:30 PM

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is adopting its first code of ethics, in the face of sustained criticism over undisclosed trips and gifts from wealthy benefactors to some justices.

The policy was issued by the court Monday. The justices, who have hinted at internal deliberations over an ethics code, last met Thursday in their private conference room at the court.

The justices said in an unsigned statement that they have long adhered to ethics standards.

“The absence of a Code, however, 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,” the justices wrote. “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 issue has vexed the court for several months, over a series of stories questioning the ethical practices of the justices. Many of those stories focused on Justice Clarence Thomas and his failure to disclose travel and other financial ties with wealthy conservative donors including Harlan Crow and Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor also have been under scrutiny.

Three justices, Amy Coney Barrett, Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh, have voiced support for an ethics code in recent months. In May, Chief Justice John Roberts said there was more the court could do to “adhere to the highest ethical standards,” without providing any specifics.

Public trust in and approval of the court is hovering near record lows, according to a Gallup Poll released just before the court’s new term began on Oct. 2.

As recently as last week, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the justices could quiet some of the criticism and a Democratic push to impose an ethics code on the court by putting in place their own policy.

Durbin’s panel has been planning to subpoena Crow and conservative activist Leonard Leo about their roles in organizing and paying for justices’ luxury travel.

The committee has been investigating the court’s ethics and passed an ethics code, though all 10 Republicans on the panel voted against it.

Republicans complained that Democrats were mostly reacting to decisions they didn’t like from the conservative-dominated court, including overturning the nationwide right to an abortion.

The proposal would require that justices provide more information about potential conflicts of interest. It would allow impartial panels of judges to review justices’ decisions not to step aside from cases and require public, written explanations about their decisions not to recuse. It would also seek to improve transparency around gifts received by justices and set up a process to investigate and enforce violations around required disclosures. The Democratic bill had little prospect of becoming law in the Republican-controlled House, much less the closely divided Senate.

The push for an ethics code was jump-started by a series of stories by the investigative news site ProPublica detailing the relationship between Crow and Thomas. Crow has for more than two decades paid for nearly annual vacations, purchased from Thomas and others the Georgia home in which the justice’s mother still lives and helped pay for the private schooling for a relative.

ProPublica also reported on Alito’s Alaskan fishing trip with a GOP donor, travel that Leo helped arrange. The Associated Press reported that Sotomayor, aided by her staff, has advanced sales of her books through college visits over the past decade.

The court’s initial step on ethics, in the spring, did not mollify critics. Roberts declined an invitation from Durbin to testify before the Judiciary panel, but the chief justice provided a “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices” signed by all nine justices that described the ethical rules they follow about travel, gifts and outside income.

The statement provided by Roberts said that the nine justices “reaffirm and restate foundational ethics principles and practices to which they subscribe in carrying out their responsibilities as Members of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

The statement promised at least some small additional disclosure when one or more among them opts not to take part in a case. But the justices have been inconsistent in doing so since.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court at https://apnews.com/hub/us-supreme-court.

 

United States News

Associated Press

ConocoPhillips buying Marathon Oil for $17.1 billion in all-stock deal, plus $5.4 billion in debt

ConocoPhillips is buying Marathon Oil in an all-stock deal valued at approximately $17.1 billion. The deal is valued at $22.5 billion when including $5.4 billion in debt. Crude prices have jumped more than 12% this year and the cost for a barrel rose above $80 this week. As part of the transaction, Marathon Oil shareholders […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Wall Street points toward losses as markets digest earnings, dealmaking

Wall Street was poised to open with losses on Wednesday as some major dealmaking and a handful of earnings reports fill the news void until Friday’s latest inflation report. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average each tumbled 0.6% before the bell. ConocoPhillips said that it is buying Marathon Oil in […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Weather-weary Texas battered again as powerful storm, strong winds kill 1, cause widespread damage

HOUSTON (AP) — Power outages remained widespread Wednesday in storm-weary Texas a day after another burst of severe weather flooded streets, uprooted trees and ripped off roofs. Authorities said a teenager was killed at a construction site while working on a home that collapsed. The severe weather Tuesday, which at one point left more than […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Jury in Trump’s hush money case will begin deliberations after hearing instructions from judge

NEW YORK (AP) — Jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial are expected to begin deliberations Wednesday after receiving instructions from the judge on the law and the factors they may consider as they strive to reach a verdict in the first criminal case against a former American president. The deliberations follow a marathon day […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Appeals court won’t halt upcoming Alabama execution

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday declined to halt the upcoming execution of an Alabama man convicted in the beating deaths of an elderly couple during a 2004 robbery. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied two separate requests for an execution stay for Jamie Ray Mills, 50. Mills is […]

10 hours ago

Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives to court during his trial for allegedly covering up ...

Associated Press

Trump prosecutor focuses on ‘cover-up’ in closing arguments while defense attacks key witness

Donald Trump engaged in “a conspiracy and a cover-up,” a prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday in the former president's hush money trial.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

The Supreme Court says it is adopting a code of ethics for the first time