WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Thursday introduced the Supreme Court Ethics Act to require the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics for Supreme Court justices. Unlike every other federal judge, Supreme Court justices are exempt from the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges—a binding code of ethics that ensures neutrality and transparency in our courts. Recent instances of dubious ethical behavior have increased scrutiny of the Court and eroded public confidence in the institution. U.S. Representative Hank Johnson (GA-4) introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“We’re teetering on the edge of a very dangerous politicization of the Supreme Court. During the nomination process for Justice Kavanaugh, we saw a disturbing display of political bias. We’ve seen Supreme Court justices promote political fundraisers and fail to report family income from special interests. All of this has eroded American’s trust in the independence and integrity of the Supreme Court. My bill is an easy step to make sure justices abide by the same standard of ethics and transparency as every other federal judge, and restore some faith back into the institution,” said Murphy.
“The Supreme Court doesn’t command an army or a police force – its power rests in the American people’s belief in its independence and integrity. President Trump and the far right’s politicization of the Court has eroded this sacred public trust. No Justice, any more than a federal judge, should advance a partisan cause or sit on a case involving a personal friend or interest. This legislation will preserve public trust and confidence – the lifeblood of the Supreme Court," said Blumenthal.
“Unlike federal judges, Supreme Court Justices are exempt from the Code of Conduct for United States judges – a binding code of ethics that ensures neutrality and transparency in our judiciary,” said Rep. Johnson, a former magistrate judge. “This bill, the Supreme Court Ethics Act, would change that. It would require the Judicial Conference of the United States to create a code of ethics, binding the Justices of the Supreme Court to commonsense standards that have been applied to federal judges for decades. This necessary ethical reform is needed to make our government more accountable to our constituents, the people of the United States.”
“The repeated refusal of Supreme Court justices to adopt rules binding themselves to the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges leaves Congress with little choice but to act," said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs with the government watchdog group Common Cause. "We commend Senator Chris Murphy and Congressman Hank Johnson for introducing this important legislation to ensure that Supreme Court justices would have to live up to the same ethical standards that all other U.S. judges do."
“The fact that the Supreme Court is not held accountable to any official code of conduct or ethics standards directly jeopardizes the public trust,” said Sarah Turberville, Director of The Constitution Project at the Project on Government Oversight. “This bill would help strengthen trust in the Supreme Court by finally including it in the same basic code of conduct that all other federal judges are accountable to, an idea that has garnered bipartisan support over the years.”
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are cosponsors of Murphy’s bill.