On Friday, July 21, 2023, abcNEWS reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance legislation that would impose greater accountability and transparency on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. The bill —  Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act — requires the adoption of a binding code of ethics, stricter disclosure rules, and a public explanation of recusal decisions.

The push for this legislation comes in the wake of alleged misconduct involving justices and has sparked a heated debate over the need for independent oversight of the nation’s highest court.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, argues that the U.S. Supreme Court currently operates with the lowest standards for ethics among federal agencies. Recent news reports revealed that Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito failed to disclose ties to wealthy businessmen and political donors, including accepting lavish gifts, luxurious private flights, and accommodations. Additionally, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was accused of using taxpayer-funded court staff to promote her books. However, Alito and Thomas defended themselves, while Sotomayor and others argued they followed the proper protocols.

The Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act aims to address these concerns by imposing oversight and accountability measures on the justices. The bill would require the U.S. Supreme Court to adhere to the same disclosure rules as lower court judges regarding gifts, travel, and income. It would also establish a system for investigating complaints about justice behavior.

The legislation would enhance transparency by requiring justices to explain their recusal decisions, which are currently at their discretion.

In response to the proposed legislation, all nine current justices released a rare joint statement asserting their adherence to a code of “ethics principles and practices” and expressing opposition to independent oversight.

Chief Justice John Roberts emphasized the court’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards of conduct but declined to testify before the Judiciary Committee, citing concerns over the separation of powers.

Supporters of the bill argue that it promotes a more ethical and accountable Supreme Court. They highlight the need to eliminate the perception of bias and ensure the public’s trust in the judiciary. However, opponents, particularly Republican lawmakers, view the legislation as an attempt to undermine and politicize the court. The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, as it would require bipartisan support for passage.

It was also reported that the Republican-lead House has demonstrated a lack of interest in addressing the issue.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member, and a Republican, said, “this bill is not designed to make the court stronger or more ethical, but to destroy a conservative court, It’s a bill to rearrange the makeup of how the court governs itself. This bill is going nowhere.”

 

Source: abcNews