The federal judiciary in the United States is subject to a rigorous code of ethics. Its goal is to protect the judicial system against corruption and outside interference. In contrast to lesser courts, however, the Supreme Court is not subject to the same scrutiny. This court is unique in that it does not adhere to any sort of moral or ethical standard.
That particular fact has been a source of debate for quite some time. The Supreme Court never implemented the rule of ethics that Associate Justice Elena Kagan promised to Congress in 2019. This is a topical subject once again, but the chief justice refuses to meet with legislators to discuss it.
Drama in SCOTUS
Supreme Court ethics will be the topic of a hearing on May 2 at 10 a.m., called by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) on April 20. Revelations in explosive ProPublica revelations that Associate Justice Clarence Thomas had accepted gifts and luxury vacations from millionaire Harlan Crow led to the decision to schedule a hearing. Despite the fact that one of the visits cost more than $500,000, the judge kept it a secret.
For decades, Justice Clarence Thomas has secretly accepted luxury trips from a major Republican donor, newly obtained documents and interviews show.— ProPublica (@propublica) April 6, 2023
The extent and frequency of these apparent gifts to Thomas has no known precedent in modern SCOTUS history… 🧵👇 pic.twitter.com/ROuGuyD6r6
Thomas did not deny receiving presents or taking vacations. According to Bloomberg, the judge explained that he didn’t file a report because Crow is a longtime friend and he was informed he didn’t have to report vacations with close friends or relatives. The wealthy, he added, had no reason to appear in court.
Some people said they became friends because Thomas was on the basketball team. However, as of late, Fortune has revealed that Crow has had at least one case before the judicial system.
The purpose of the Senate inquiry was to examine the High Court’s ethical problems.
In a statement released on April 25th, Roberts officially declined Durbin’s offer to appear before the committee. Because of the separation of powers and “judicial independence,” he noted, “exceedingly rare” is for the chief justice to testify before Congress. Justices, according to Roberts, adhere to the Statement of Ethics Principles and Practices attached to the letter.
After the chief justice’s rejection was made public, Durbin issued a statement of his own. According to him, the May 2 hearing would continue on as planned, and he stressed that “Supreme Court ethics reform must happen whether the Court participates in the process or not.” Senator Grassley continued by expressing his shock that Roberts had recited modern legal rules of ethics without mentioning the fact that Thomas’ use of “yachts and private jets” had never been reported.