CHRIS MEGERIAN, ERIC TUCKER and BRIAN SLODISCO (Associated Press)
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, responding to an Associated Press investigation into the Supreme Court, said on Tuesday it is time for judges to bring their behavior in line with the ethical standards of other branches of government.
“If they just set the basic standards for every other branch of government, it would give us a lot more confidence in their integrity,” said Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois. He commented on this in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he attended a NATO summit as part of a US delegation.
The AP published stories showing that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, with the help of her staff, boosted her book sales through college visits over the past decade; that universities have used judges’ travel as bait for financial donations by placing them in event halls with wealthy donors, and that judges have taken paid study tours to attractive locations that do not require actual classroom training.
The series comes after stories over the past six months that have raised ethical concerns about the activities of judges. Durbin and other lawmakers in Washington announced a vote next week on legislation that would require the court to adopt a code of ethics. Although the measure is unlikely to be passed, it sends a signal of dissatisfaction with the court.
The country’s highest court operates without a code of ethics, instead following what Chief Justice John Roberts called a set of foundational “ethical principles and practices”.
Asked Tuesday about the AP stories, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-C, who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, called them “powerful reports” that are “drop by drop indictment of the Supreme Court.” no one seems to be responsible for ethical violations.
“The Chief Justice really needs to take this into account for the sake of the court and the country, because the Supreme Court will no longer exist as a truly viable institution if it continues to fail to meet the need for a code of ethics,” he said. said.
In contrast, Sen. John Cornyn, D-Tex., another member of the Judiciary Committee, said he believes Congress should leave ethics to the courts and that the Democrats’ push for ethics reform “is part of a longstanding assault on the court that leftists believe undermines many things that they have achieved over the years through judicial actions. It’s a motivating factor for me.”
“I think this is an equal branch of government over which we have no jurisdiction. Secondly, I think this is part of the false narrative that the court is out of control and needs Congress to save it,” Kornin said.
Kathleen Clark, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and legal ethics expert, said recent reports show the extent to which “ethics issues in the Supreme Court are an equal opportunity scandal.
“It’s not just about Clarence Thomas and (Samuel) Alito,” Clarke said, referring to earlier media reports of the two conservative judges. “It’s more of an institutional than an individual issue.”
Megerian reported from Vilnius, Lithuania. AP writer Kevin Fracking of Washington contributed to this report.