Renewed calls for new SCOTUS ethics code after Sotomayor came under fire over book sales

July 13, 2023
Ryan Ledendecker

In the wake of a bombshell report alleging Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's staff pressuring institutions to purchase large volumes of her book, lawmakers are renewing calls for new ethics standards for the high court. 

According to the Washington Examiner, this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee offered two options, saying it would either back a new ethics code developed by Chief Justice John Roberts, or issue a call to Congress to pass such a bill.

The Examiner reported that senators are split on which way to go on the issue.

The development also comes in the wake of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas facing pressure from the left, and most of the media, over ethics concerns involving one of his ultra-wealthy friends, Harlan Crow.

New code applies to all

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durban clarified that any new ethics code will apply to the entirety of the high court and not just one political side.

"Whatever changes we make, if any, in (the) code of ethics or ethical disclosure by the Supreme Court will apply to all justices regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum," he told the Examiner.

Senate appropriators are set to discuss an amendment that would withhold $10 million for the Supreme Court until Chief Justice John Roberts informs Congress that the court 'has put into effect a code of ethics,'" Philip Rucker tweeted.

Several Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Sen. John Cornyn (TX) were on the same page regarding who should put such a code in place. Both senators do not believe it should fall on Congress.

"I don't think this is an occasion for the Congress to get involved," Cornyn said. "They’re a co-equal branch of government, and they're accustomed to dealing with these issues on their own."

More feedback

Several other senators, both Republican and Democrat, weighed in on the matter.

"Responding more broadly to the concerns about all the justices, every other federal judge in America is bound by a code of judicial ethics that has reporting requirements and enforcement capabilities," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).  "I cannot understand why Chief Justice Roberts, having been given the opportunity, fails to act to impose or adopt a similar code."

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) added:" I do think that the way for this to be solved is for the court to … follow the code of judicial conduct that all of the other federal courts follow," He added, "That would be the best-case scenario, if they would actually follow the code of judicial conduct and implement their own ethics guidelines."

Only time will tell if Chief Justice Roberts handles the issues in-house or if it'll take an act of Congress.

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