Senate Judiciary Democrats continued to press Chief Justice John Roberts for answers on Supreme Court ethical standards Thursday, two days after the nine justices issued a rare unanimous statement explaining how the Court handles ethical issues.
Roberts included the statement along with his Tuesday letter declining Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin’s invitation to testify before the Committee at an upcoming hearing on Supreme Court ethics reform. Democrats argue in their letter that the justices’ statement “raises more questions than it resolves” and request more information by May 1, the day before the hearing is scheduled.
“Your answers will inform the Committee’s work on legislation that seeks to ensure that the ethical obligations and practices of the Justices are at least on par with those that govern the rest of the federal judiciary and the federal government generally,” the letter states.
Mike Davis, founder and president of the Article III Project, told the Daily Caller News Foundation the letter was another attack on “judicial independence.”
“Dick Durbin knows better than this,” Davis told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “This is a transparent and shameful attempt by Senate Democrats to attack the Supreme Court and judicial independence because the Senate Democrats do not like the Court’s current composition.”
BREAKING: All Senate Judiciary Dems press Chief Justice Roberts for info leading into next week’s hearing on Supreme Court ethics.
This follows the Chief Justice declining to show up to the hearing, despite numerous revelations calling Justices’ ethical standards into question.
— Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudiciaryDems) April 27, 2023
Democrats continued in their letter to ask for the date justices subscribed to the statement, whether the court requires unanimity to adopt a resolution to follow ethics regulations, and what guidance they recieve on deciding which authorities to consult for ethical issues.
They also ask what the consequences are for failing to respond to a letter of inquiry from the Judicial Conferences’ Committee on Financial Disclosure and if there has ever been “any censure, reprimand, admonition, sanction, or other penalty imposed on a Justice” for failing to abide by a principle cited in the justices’ statement. (RELATED: ‘Exceedingly Rare’: Chief Justice Roberts Declines Durbin’s Invitation To Appear Before Judiciary Committee)
“The Justices, like other federal judges, consult a wide variety of authorities to address specific ethical issues,” the justices’ wrote in their Tuesday statement, which they said was intended to dispel “common misconceptions.”
“They may turn to judicial opinions, treatises, scholarly articles, disciplinary decisions, and the historical practice of the Court and the federal judiciary,” they continued. “They may also seek advice from the Court’s Legal Office and from their colleagues.”
Even after the justices’ statement, other Democratic members of congress continued to push for reform.
“This statement rings hollow,” Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday. “A court that rejects accountability for itself erodes its own legitimacy to hold others accountable in turn.”
On Wednesday, Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal called Justice Clarence Thomas’ failure to disclose expense-paid trips from friend and billionaire Harlan Crow “potentially criminal.” Thomas noted in a statement that he “sought guidance” from colleagues who told him the trips were not reportable.
Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Independent Maine Sen. Angus King also introduced legislation Wednesday that would require the Supreme Court to issue a code of conduct within a year.
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