Bill would create ethics code for Supreme Court justices

Greg Nash

As the Supreme Court is gearing up to hear arguments Tuesday in what could be the nation’s most influential case on gay marriage, Democratic lawmakers are calling on the high court to adopt a code of ethics for justices.

The Supreme Court Ethics Act, reintroduced Thursday, would require the Supreme Court to adopt a code of the ethics within 180 days. The nine justices are currently exempt from the code of conduct U.S. judges follow to ensure neutrality and transparency in the nation’s courts.

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“There is absolutely no reason why Supreme Court Justices shouldn’t be subject to the same code of conduct as all other federal judges,” Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphySaudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Dems to McConnell: Bring up Trump tax bill Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (D-Conn.) said in a news release. “The American people deserve to know that our highest court is held to the highest ethical standards, which is why we introduced the Supreme Court Ethics Act.”

A similar bill was first introduced in 1973. In 2012, 212 legal scholars sent Chief Justice John Roberts a letter urging him to adopt a code of conduct for U.S. judges. To date, more than 130,000 Americans have signed a petition asking Roberts to adopt a code of ethics for the high court.

Because Congress determines how many justices sit on the Supreme Court and what they are paid, lawmakers say creating a code of conduct is part of their purview as well.

“The questionable activities of some of our Supreme Court justices have been well documented — participating in political functions, failing to report family income from political groups, and attending fundraisers,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said in a press release. “It doesn’t make sense that members of the highest court in the land are the only federal judges exempt from the code of conduct.”