On Monday, August 7, 2023, Oregonlive reported that in a recent address at the 2023 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan stressed the importance of upholding court precedents and exercising restraint in decision-making. Kagan also expressed her hope that the Supreme Court will adopt its own code of ethics, citing the need for the court to maintain the public’s trust and ensure that justices are not influenced by personal or political preferences.

During her speech, Kagan emphasized the importance of adhering to precedent, stating that it is essential for ensuring reliability and predictability in the court’s decisions. She noted that the court’s role is to “do law, rather than kind of willy-nilly imposing their own preferences as the composition of the court changes.” She also emphasized the need for the court to use restraint and not overstep its bounds by becoming a policymaker. Kagan’s comments seem to be a response to criticism that the court has become increasingly politicized, with some justices accused of allowing their personal beliefs to influence their decisions.

Kagan herself has been critical of her colleagues in recent dissents, arguing that they have overstepped their authority and allowed politics to infiltrate their decisions. Kagan expressed her hope that the Supreme Court will adopt its own code of ethics, similar to the codes that govern lower courts. She acknowledged that the court has been discussing the issue and that there are a variety of opinions among the justices. She believes that a code of ethics would help to address concerns about the court’s integrity and ensure that justices are held to the highest standards of conduct.

Kagan’s comments come at a time when the Supreme Court is facing increased scrutiny over its ethical standards. In recent months, there have been several high-profile cases in which justices have been accused of conflicts of interest and partisanship. A code of ethics could help to address these concerns and ensure that the court maintains the public’s trust.

One of the leading figures that are in the spotlight right now is Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito who has recently faced accusations of failing to recuse himself from cases involving entities connected to hedge fund founder Paul Singer and of neglecting to report certain gifts, such as a private flight to Alaska for a fishing trip, on his mandatory annual financial disclosure forms. However, Alito has strongly denied these allegations, stating that they are unfounded.

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has also faced allegations of unethical behavior, allegedly accepting lavish gifts from Dallas real estate billionaire Harlan Crow, a well-known Republican megadonor for years. It was reported that Justice Thomas failed to disclose these luxury trips in his financial disclosures, which violates a law requiring justices, judges, members of Congress, and federal officials to disclose most gifts.

Justice Kagan’s emphasis on upholding precedent and exercising restraint is a theme that she has discussed in several recent talks. In her dissents, she has argued that the court should not overturn previous decisions without a compelling reason and should avoid imposing its own preferences on the law. Kagan believes that this approach is essential for maintaining the court’s legitimacy and ensuring that its decisions are based on the law rather than personal beliefs. Kagan’s approach to precedent and restraint is rooted in her belief that the court’s role is to interpret the law rather than make policy. She has argued that the court should defer to the legislative and executive branches when it comes to making policy decisions and that its role is to ensure that the law is applied fairly and consistently.

Justice Elena Kagan’s remarks at the 2023 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference highlight the importance of upholding court precedents and exercising restraint in decision-making. Her call for a code of ethics for the Supreme Court reflects her commitment to ensuring the court’s integrity and maintaining the public’s trust. As the court continues to face scrutiny over its ethical standards, Kagan’s approach to precedent and restraint offers a way forward that prioritizes the rule of law and the principles of justice.

 

Source: Oregonlive