WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter released Tuesday night that he would decline an invitation to testify about the Supreme Court’s ethics rules.
In an accompanying statement on ethics, all nine justices insisted amid mounting pressure in court for stricter reporting requirements that existing rules on gifts, travel and other financial disclosures Rules are enough.
The chief justice wrote that such occurrences before the committee were “extremely rare, as might be expected given the issue of separation of powers and the importance of preserving judicial independence.”
Last week, Senator Richard J. Durbin, D-Illinois, and committee chairman, before Judge Clarence Thomas and Texas billionaire and Republican donor Harlan Crow ( Harlan Crow, invited the Chief Justice to appear after revelations of unreported gifts, travel and real estate dealings between
In the letter, Chief Justice Roberts attached a “Statement of Ethical Principles and Practice” signed by the sitting justices, with an appendix of relevant laws applicable to judicial disclosure.
In the ethics statement, the justices wrote that they aimed to clarify how they “addressed certain recurring issues” and “dispelled some common misconceptions.” To address ethical issues, they seek “judicial opinions, papers, scholarly articles, disciplinary action and historical practice of the courts and federal judiciary,” the statement they signed said, adding that they could seek advice from colleagues and the court’s legal office .
The justices also said they may limit what is disclosed due to security concerns. In fact, financial disclosures are not filed immediately and must be filed annually in May. (The court has requested more funding for security amid threats, including an alleged assassination attempt against Judge Brett Kavanaugh last summer.)
In a statement, Mr Durbin said the hearing would go ahead regardless.
“It amazes me that the Chief Justice’s account of existing legal morality as showing that existing law is adequate ignores the obvious,” Mr. Durbin wrote. “It is time for Congress to take responsibility for creating an enforceable code of ethics for the Supreme Court, the only institution in our government that does not have one.”
Advocates for greater court transparency said the statement did little to allay concerns about accountability.
“Roberts’ statement is far from an appropriate response to the current court’s ethics failures,” Gabros, executive director of Fix the Court, a group calling for stricter ethics rules for the Supreme Court, said in a statement.
This month, ProPublica revealed that Justice Thomas had spent nearly 20 years on luxury travel with Mr. Crowe, including flying in his private jet to a men-only resort in Northern California on his Indonesian superyacht. Take a vacation and stay at Mr. Crowe’s place. Crow’s 105-acre lakefront resort in the Adirondacks. does not appear on the financial disclosure forms Judge Thomas files each year.
Justice Thomas also did not report real estate transactions with Mr Crowe. In 2014, a real estate firm tied to Crow bought the Savannah, Ga., home where Judge Thomas’ mother lived, as well as two vacant lots on the same street. Mr. Crow paid the judge and his family $133,363 for the property, according to records filed with Chatham County Court on October 15, 2014. The judge’s mother, Leola Williams, still lives in the house Mr Crow now owns.
Politico reported Tuesday that Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, shortly after his appointment in 2017, sold his estate to the CEO of a major law firm that regularly There are business contacts on the website, but the identity of the buyer has not been disclosed. While this is not against the law, it underscores the need for reform, experts said.
Earlier this year, the American Bar Association urged justices to adopt an ethics code, saying the absence of one would jeopardize the court’s legitimacy.
In 2019, Justice Elena Kagan told a House committee that the chief justice was “examining whether to develop a code of judicial conduct that applies only to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
In 2011, the chief justice wrote in his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary that the justices consulted the code of conduct and said they were not necessarily bound by the Code of Conduct for American Judges, which applies to other federal judges.
“In fact, all members of the Court refer to the Code of Conduct when assessing their moral obligations,” he wrote, adding: “Every judge strives to live by high moral standards, and the Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct provides a An up-to-date unified source of guidance designed with specific reference to the needs and obligations of the federal judiciary.”