Submitted By Lawrence Rafferty, (rafflaw) Guest Blogger
Professor Turley has recently discussed the ethical problems raised by Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas by their attendance and participation in fund raisers for conservative groups. In addition, Justice Thomas’ wife has also come under criticism for working for a lobbying group that benefitted from the Citizen United decision. With all of the potential conflicts of interest that these Supreme Court Justices are involved in, it looks like someone is finally attempting to rein in the Justices and make them subject to the Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct which all other Federal Judges have to adhere to.
Representative Chris Murphy of Connecticut has authored a bill to end the conflict of interests that some Supreme Court Justices refuse to recuse themselves from. “Murphy’s bill will:
- apply the Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct, which applies to all other federal judges, to Supreme Court justices. This would allow the public to access more timely and detailed information when an outside group wants to have a justice participate in a conference, such as the funders of the conference;
- require the justices to simply publicly disclose their reasoning behind a recusal when they withdraw from a case;
- require the Court to develop a process for parties to a case before the Court to request a decision from the Court, or a panel of the Court, regarding the potential conflict of interest of a particular Justice.”
If this bill was successful in passing through the Republican controlled House and Democratic controlled Senate, which would be a tough assignment; the Supreme Court Justices would be breaking the law if they continued to attend and participate in political fund raisers. Canon 5 of The Judicial Conference’s Code of Ethics precludes a judge from being involved in any political activity.
The first question that I would have is how would this law, if passed, actually be enforced against any Justice? Would this legislation make it easier to impeach a justice who refuses to live up to the ethics requirements laid out in the Judicial Conference’s Code of Ethics? Can a Justice and his or her vote be removed from a decision if they are found to be in violation of the ethical rules after the decision is rendered?
Maybe the question that really should be asked first is whether there is even a need for this legislation? All of these are questions that need to be answered, but the subject legislation has to make it through the House and Senate first and that is one tall order. How do you see it?
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty, (rafflaw), Guest Blogger