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Chief Justice Mulling Ethics Code for Supreme Court

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

The U.S. Supreme Court does not have a code of conduct, but the Chief Justice is considering one.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has discussed the possibility with colleagues, but it is barely a work in progress. Justice Elena Kagan told lawmakers at a budget hearing that it is in a very preliminary stage.

The news came out as the House of Representatives has been debating whether Supreme Court Justices should abide by the same code that applies to all other federal judges. Apparently, the Justices don't like that idea.

Supreme Conduct

Justices Kagan and Alito appeared before a House subcommittee to request an additional $3.4 million over last year's budget. But lawmakers were interested in other issues, including judicial accountability in the #MeToo era.

Kagan said the Supreme Court has not discussed an ethics code in conference, but it is "being thought very seriously about." Alito said Justices strive to follow ethical rules that apply to the lower courts, but he expressed some concerns.

"I think that it is inconsistent with the constitutional structure for lower court judges to be reviewing things done by Supreme Court Justices for compliance with ethical rules," he said.

Judicial ethics have become a burning issue, however, at least since Alex Kozinski fell from grace and Brett Kavanaugh became a member of the highest court in the land.

Kozinski, Kavanaugh Factors

After Judge Alex Kozinski resigned under a cloud of sexual harassment claims, Roberts promised to evaluate the judiciary's sexual misconduct policies.

Then the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing happened, when the nation watched the nominee explain "the devil's triangle" and "boofing" to the Senate. He testified they were drinking games, not sexual references, from his college days.

At the committee hearing this week, lawmakers also asked the Justices about televising oral arguments. The Supreme Court is not for that, the Justices said.

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