Chief justice doubles down in letter to Senate Dems day before hearing on SCOTUS ethics reform

Chief justice doubles down in letter to Senate Dems day before hearing on SCOTUS ethics reform
Chief Justice John Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts is doubling down on his claim that the U.S. Supreme Court needs no ethics reforms in the wake of bombshell reports that at least two justices have engaged in what some consider corruption.

Late Monday afternoon, in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats (below), the Chief Justice revealed the Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices he had sent as proof of his justices’ dedication to ethics, which was adopted unanimously, had been signed the very day he sent it to Chairman Dick Durbin: April 25.

He also revealed that the last time Supreme Court justices had adopted a statement on ethics was 30 years ago, in 1993. While Supreme Court justices have a lifetime appointment, that would mean that only Justice Clarence Thomas had signed onto the code of ethics before last week. Coincidentally, Justice Thomas is the justice most of the allegations of corruption have centered on, although Justice Neil Gorsuch’s failure to reveal that a law firm chief had purchased land from him is attracting ethical concerns, and the Chief Justice is facing public scrutiny after it was revealed his wife has made over $10 million by placing attorneys into law firms, some of which have business before the Supreme Court.

Defending the justices’ actions, Chief Justice Roberts told Chairman Durbin and the Senate Judiciary Democrats that “Justices consult a wide variety of guidance on ethics issues, including statutes, judicial opinions, advice from Judicial Conference Committees and the Court’s Legal Office, scholarly commentary, and historical practice, among other sources.”

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That may be true, but according to reporting from ProPublica, Justice Thomas claimed he had consulted with fellow Justices and others when he first joined the court in 1991 and decided he was under no obligation to report on his annual financial disclose forms that over the past 20 years or so billionaire Harlan Crow had provided possibly millions of dollars worth of luxury, all-expenses-paid travel, vacations, food, lodging, and clothing, and even purchased his mother’s house, where she now lives rent free.

On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on ethics reform for the Supreme Court.

Chairman Durbin had invited the Chief Justice to attend, or send a justice of his choosing in his lace, but Roberts refused.

Tuesday’s hearing begins at 10 AM ET. You can watch it live here.

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The Justice’s latest intransigence comes after Justice Alito gave what many saw as a damning interview last week to Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. During that interview he said he believes he knows who leaked the draft copy of his ruling in the Dobbs case last year, which overturned the decades-old Roe v. Wade decision that found women have a constitutional right to abortion. And he insists it was not a conservative.

U.S Senator Sheldon Whitrehouse (D-RI) on Monday blasted Alito: “Right, this is appropriate judicial behavior, to publicly blame the non-FedSoc side of the Court for his opinion leak without a shred of proof.”

Read the Chief Justice’s letter below or at this link.

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