Campaign Legal Center and 24 Partners Urge the Supreme Court to Create Meaningful Enforcement for its Ethics Code
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign Legal Center and 24 partners and allies submitted a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), urging the nation’s highest court to adopt a meaningful and consequential ethics code of conduct.
Following a series of ethics lapses by multiple justices, which gained notoriety throughout 2023, SCOTUS announced on Monday that it had adopted a “code of conduct.” Unfortunately, this code consists largely of a series of recommendations for the way justices should conduct themselves with no tangible mechanism for enforcement — falling fall short of the material changes CLC and the letter’s co-signers have long been calling for.
“Despite the Supreme Court of United States unveiling a ‘code of conduct’ this week, little has changed. The new code fails to provide for any enforcement, making the prospect of real accountability for ethics violations unlikely. The result is a federal judiciary that will continue to accumulate public scrutiny and distrust,” said Delaney Marsco, Senior Legal Counsel for Ethics at Campaign Legal Center. “This is why Campaign Legal Center and 24 partner groups and allies have joined together to directly call on the Court to take the reasonable and logical steps necessary to change the status quo. A commitment to accountability through ethics enforcement is necessary to restore public trust in the Supreme Court.”
CLC and 24 partner groups and allies are calling on the Court to ensure its code has a compliance mechanism. Specifically, SCOTUS should create an internal ethics office that will provide the justices with consistent guidance as to how this code of conduct — and other applicable rules — should be followed, as well as an internal ethics office to investigate possible violations.
These steps are the clearest way forward for the nation’s highest court to build public trust. Similar ethics rules are already in place for members of the executive and legislative branches and exist for judges serving on federal courts. It is critical for the public’s trust in our democratic institutions that the highest court in our nation is held to at least those same ethical standards, and that justices are held accountable when they violate those standards.
Accusations of ethics violations by individual Supreme Court justices have increased in recent years, with six of the nine current justices facing scrutiny for possible ethics issues since late 2022. At a time when public trust in the nation’s highest court is at a historic low, the reforms proposed by CLC and its partners merit serious consideration and adoption by the Supreme Court.