Supreme Court Adopts Code Of Ethics After Pressure From Dems, Activists

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The Supreme Court is adopting a code of ethics, it announced Monday.

The nine justices unanimously signed on to a Code of Conduct that will “gather in one place the ethics rules and principles” that guide their conduct, according to a statement from the court. Democrats have for months pressured the Supreme Court to adopt a code following reports alleging ethics violations by conservative justices, proposing legislation that would require the justices to adopt a code. The court had been the subject of a campaign by left-wing activist groups, who targeted conservative justices for their relationships with wealthy individuals.

“For the most part these rules and principles are not new: The Court has long had the equivalent of common law ethics rules, that is, a body of rules derived from a variety of sources, including statutory provisions, the code that applies to other members of the federal judiciary, ethics advisory opinions issued by the Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct, and historic practice,” the justices wrote in a statement. “The absence of a Code, however, has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules.”

“To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct,” the statement continues.

The code outlines standards for justices to adhere to when making recusal decisions, engaging in extrajudicial activities like speaking events, conducting financial activities, accepting gifts and reporting reimbursements, among other activities.

Democrats revived calls for an ethics code in April after ProPublica’s first story on Justice Clarence Thomas, which focused on expense-paid vacations he took with friend and billionaire real estate developer Harlan Crow and did not disclose. Conservatives blasted the report as an attempt to attack the justice and disputed the notion that the rules at the time required disclosure. (RELATED: Dems Call For Conservative Justice Recusals On Cases That Could Undermine Their Political Goals)

ProPublica’s top donors also fund many of the same groups who called for Thomas to resign or be investigated in the wake of their reporting.

The Senate Judiciary Commitee advanced Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act in July, a bill that compels the justices to adopt a code of ethics, as well as establish a process for investigating complaints against justices and increasing disclosure requirements, without a single Republican vote. Republicans opposed the bill as an effort to intimidate the justices and delegitimize the Supreme Court.

Most recently, Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats sought to subpoeana Crow and conservative activist Leonard Leo as an extension of their ethics probe, which Republicans shut down a vote on last week by introducing a slew of amendments.

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