On Friday, May 17, 2024, Forbes published an article detailing several recent ethics controversies facing members of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The article began by reporting that Justice Samuel Alito had flown an upside-down American flag outside his home after the 2020 presidential election. Flying the flag inverted is seen as a symbol of distress and was used by some backing disproven claims of election fraud. Neighbors saw this as a potentially inappropriate political statement for a Supreme Court justice and alerted the court. Experts noted justices are meant to avoid any appearance of political bias according to conduct rules.

Following this, the piece outlined controversies surrounding other justices. It was reported that Justice Clarence Thomas had received valuable gifts from political donor Harlan Crow, including luxurious travel and real estate deals worth hundreds of thousands, without full financial disclosure as mandated. Thomas’ wife Ginni was also scrutinized for her prominent role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results at the same time cases on the matter were being heard by her husband.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor drew attention for her staff apparently pressuring event venues to purchase copies of her books in conjunction with speaking engagements. Chief Justice John Roberts’ spouse’s work providing legal recruiting services where some represented clients before the high court raised optics issues as well. The article synthesized reports of justices attending donors’ conferences, mingling with political actors, and other potential conflicts of interest.

In response to growing criticism, the Supreme Court instituted an initial conduct code in November, but it was criticized for lacking enforcement. Senators pledged continued examination. Quoted experts felt recusals were warranted in some Democratic-led cases, while the justices denied impropriety. As controversy has heightened surrounding judicial independence and whether justices are bound by sufficient standards, adherence to ethics remains a highly debated issue.



Source: Forbes